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Tuesday 7/21/20

* White women of New England who went to expensive liberal arts colleges (and often expensive prep schools before that) and spend a goodly chunk of their lives virtue signaling online and living their version of the least self-examined lives ever, love to say "y'all" on social media now. They think it makes them part of the cause, an honorary member of a club educating the masses. I find it interesting that these people tend to be surrounded only by white people in their lives, have little to no interests in even African American artists (you won't be having a conversation with them about Billie Holiday), and infantilize people of color by treating them as though they were mascots of their own vanity who are also helpless--like they're pets they take care and provide for, but not really take care of, as their interest is in the cosmetics of their own appearance.

The "y'all" will typically come at the start of a sentence that then says something bromidic and simple that this individual intends as sage, like they're Aristotle enlightening everyone, but what they're actually doing is repeating some cliche that everyone knows going back to Kindergarten. They are sufficiently removed from reality and cogent argument, any vetting, either of their own thoughts or in the form of words from anyone else, to all but pin a gold star on themselves after one of these posts--of which they make many--and that is how they define their identity, how they measure their worth, how they deem themselves caring, important, and, perhaps most maddening of all, "deep."

That so many people now think they are deep makes it almost impossible to interact with anyone. If you are like that yourself, no problem. You don't notice, or you don't care, or you just want that other person to act as though you are deep, as you do with them. That's the social compact of these diseased times, as mental health falters, and we burrow deeper into a post-self, post-reason, post-identity age. If you're not like this, it seems to me that if you don't already have people--if you were lucky to have people going back six, seven, ten years ago, when the world was less this way--you have a real problem. I don't know who you can be with. I don't know how you find people.

* Avoid anyone who says "my truth" or instructs someone to tell "their truth." Such a person will always be someone for whom reality represents that which cannot be faced. They will be weak, and they endeavor to undercut reality and tailor it to their failings and fears (that is, make their failings great and mighty traits, and their fears nonexistent on account that they discovered mob rhetoric that obfuscates what it is that will continue to hamper their growth and reduce their individual humanity), which they'll attempt to do with platitudes and seeking out and celebrating those who enable them in this thinking. As always, the relationship is codependent; these people count on others going along with what they say, no matter how detached from reality it is, in exchange for doing the same thing with that other person. This is now the basis of human relationships, though, of course, a real relationship--as in, one that works--cannot have this as its foundation. Reality does not belong to anyone and it's disturbingly hubristic to think that it belongs to you personally. The truth does not belong to you or to me. Truth and reality are autonomous entities. They belong only to themselves, and it is our task, our challenge, to process what they are, and adapt and proceed accordingly.

* Question: Is it possible to go into a Boston Dunkin' Donuts and hear anyone--save the employees--pronounce the word "sugar" properly? "Shhhugggggahhhh." Another thought: Maybe if you already have some beverage entity laced with said sugar, and something "drizzled" atop it--caramel, e.g.--you don't need six more packets of sugar dumped in? Ironically, I'll note now that the people who order such concoctions are fastidious mask-wearers. And yet, they have no problem romancing heart disease, like they need heart disease to show up at their house and take them off on a date.

* Each time I encounter a "should of" it's like my soul is stabbed a little. There are some people who think this is an awful thing to say. That hoping for some standards of language, as we get closer and closer to being a post-literate society, renders one a bad person.

* I wonder what the point of school is. I don't believe in college, insofar as the liberal arts are concerned. I don't believe anyone who has any ability to write would ever go into an MFA program. If you went into an MFA program, you have to believe that Keats, Shakespeare, Donne, Proust, would have been better writers if they went into an MFA program. I'd like to see you make that argument. Because you can't. So why do you need it? Further, those people would have been kicked out of their MFA programs or had a horrible experience (imagine Poe in an Iowa workshop?) because they did work that was new, fresh, innovative, that was not based on the teachable tropes of what is a form of ponzi scheme for people who will never have anything to say as writers. You want to say it gave you time to write? Maybe read up on Melville and John Clare. Funny how people who actually had talent always found the time to create. No matter how brutal their lives got. No matter how poor they were. No matter how many commitments they had.

But I am speaking of school before grad school. When I was in school, most teachers encouraged us to learn as much as we could. To think hard, to think critically. To ask questions. Not with the goal of being some rabble-rouser--but you ask enough questions, you become someone who sees the world from all angles. You develop the quality of empathy, and I think true empathy might be the rarest quality in the world today. I bet you you'd have to go through ten million people before you found someone who was actually endued with empathy, though most people in your search would insist, as a matter of course, that they possess this quality.

No teacher said, "You know what, stop learning, because you might pay a price for what you know." I question the efficacy of schools, of there being any point to them, because it seems like no one listened to their teachers. Their whole mantra was "learn, and then learn more." But if anyone had done this, we wouldn't fear, stay the hell away from, and even seem to loathe people know who do learn and learn constantly. We'd be that way ourselves. The people we appear to most like are mediocre people who say the same thing again and again. They offer nothing new. They offer no thoughts that are wiser, more penetrating, or different at all than our own thoughts. They are not funny. They are basic and boring, and they say the exact same things so many other people say. "I think the Dodgers will be good this year." 23K likes. That's amazing, huh? That was a great line to you? That was interesting? You need to follow that person? You wish to spend part of your life knowing that they said something like that? You need to see it? You want to see it? Why? "I think the Dodgers will be good this year." What on earth can that possibly do for you? I'm not talking contrasting viewpoints as the key to all. What I'm saying is what most people want, in terms of who they turn to, in terms of who they follow on Twitter, and in life, is someone "ordinary" who happens to be famous, and whom that person doing the following never thinks is any smarter than they are.

By "ordinary" I don't mean in touch with "the folk." I mean mediocre. We want this in our authors, too. Mediocrity. We want to look at a book and feel as though we could have done it. We want to own the book and not read the book because owning the book confers upon us some status as a saver of society. A person who cares about people of color while knowing no people of color. That kind of person I mentioned at the top of this entry, who is going to have a couple of Roxane Gay books that no one could ever truly get anything from. She's a good example. Mediocre. And a lot of other things, which we can get into later. One is enabled by those books in one's descent. They are comfort food for the descent, in that they countenance the descent. They never say, "um, maybe don't descend? Maybe there's a better way to go? Let's try this..."

* I awoke this morning and saw something about Bill Cosby on Twitter. Bill Cosby himself has a Twitter profile, which I had never been to, so I decided today to see what that was about. He has 3.3 million followers. A serial rapist. Now, if we learned that Shakespeare was a serial rapist, I wouldn't say you shouldn't read Hamlet. I have always kept things like that separate. The Beatles were horrible people in many ways. But I've never once listened to "A Day in the Life" and thought of John Lennon. I'll use his name to say something about the vocal, but I never heard the song and thought about the man. But Bill Cosby did not produce the work of a Shakespeare or a Beatles. What he produced was not particularly consequential. At best, it was light entertainment. So are a billion other things. Why would someone follow this person? The comments are appalling. "You're my favorite TV dad and I'm not even a little tan." People actually write things like that. I'd say seventy percent of the comments are about his rapings (mostly bad jokes, which boil down to people saying the exact same jokes over and over and being sufficiently imbecilic that they think they're original and witty), but the rest are in praise of this guy, the praise often intercut with casual racism, as with the above example. Carl Reiner died, and Cosby tweeted something Reiner said in praise of him. Sick. Wait until a guy dies to use his death to compliment yourself, when if you shared the quote--which was probably from like 1971--the day before the guy died, the guy would have pounded you in front of everyone.

* I have no doubt that the internet is the worst thing ever to have happened to humanity, and it could be what begins the end for humanity. Ironically, the internet has played a key role in the greatest artist there has ever been being able to do what he does, at the rate he does it. The artist who offers an antidote to what ails us now. Much of what ails us now. The internet ought to have made us wiser, because it gave us so much information with no middle-person, so much art, books, films, music, a source for contrasting viewpoints. But no one used it that way. People used it to grow their narcissism, to try and treat their insecurity by conflating "the like" with 1. Being liked 2. Actually giving someone a reason to like you; to render themselves less alone through means which actually made them more alone, rather than going out and trying to find solutions. It has made us more depressed, more suicidal, made us drink more, think less, exercise less, hate more. It has eroded our language skills, our ability to tell stories, to process truth, to accept truth, and has deified mobs and packs and turned fear into a fulcrum with our decisions--we won't choose what is right, we will choose what puts us in a group where appearance is everything, and reality is the devil. We are not strong enough to start our own groups, our own healthy communities, because we lack the intelligence, the courage, the language skills, the self-awareness, the sense of purpose, the willingness to work doggedly and truly, sans guarantee of a favorable outcome. When someone does try to build healthy community--hello--and foster the joint walking of a road towards one, we stay away, because that person does not already have 1.4 million followers, and if others are not already there, we are unable, unwilling, or too scared to go there on our own. We may wait for others to get there first. To build up the huge group that we then just join. But if this is everyone's attitude, there will be no one there at all, and how could we be led by anyone great who can help us, who can offer us things, when we stay away because it is that person, those people, with all of that mediocrity, who have all of the numbers? The numbers do our thinking and motivation for us. "I will call this author the best author in the world because that's what people do." "I will follow this celebrity I've never heard of on Twitter who says some pretty basic political things because that is what people do." No choices are made based on what something actually is.


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