Voices in Unison: “I Don’t Matter” Edition

All throughout this crazy year, I have been inviting people to vote.  There are stark reminders every day of the difference between bad or absent or incompetent or self-serving “leadership”, and what’s possible under competent leaders.  And so today I’d like to extend a special invitation to those who say “My vote doesn’t matter” with these responses…

My vote doesn’t matter; TLDR version:  In short, this question:  if your vote doesn’t matter, then why are they doing all they can to violate your right to vote, both in ability and in its impact?  Whether it be by closing polling places, or implementing unnecessary and onerous voting ID and registration issues, or making information difficult to discover, or participating in extreme gerrymandering, or linking voting rights to the paying of fines and fees, or attacking mail in voting, or creating a false panic about fraud, or simply to engage in behavior that is designed to put you off voting, there is so a lot being done to decrease voter turnout.  And they cement it in place by fostering that very feeling you have, that feeling that your vote doesn’t matter.  They want you to think it doesn’t matter, that it’s too hard, that you’re better off staying home and just not vote.  Because they know that the less people vote, the easier it is for them to influence the outcome.  The more people they can get to tune out, and the more roadblocks they can throw in the way, the greater the impact of their fervent base upon which they can count on to show up while at the same time making it easy for their base to vote.  Which, in turn, makes it easy to gain the power.  By doing all this they get to break the system and choose their electorate, not, as it should be, the other way around.  To that, I say no.  Please vote. Continue reading

Philosophy Tuesday

As I’ve noted here before, there is great clarity that comes from comparing who we proclaim ourselves to be (or to be about), and looking at what our actions, or the results thereof, say about what’s ACTUALLY going on.  And what’s going on right now is really showing us a very stark view of how authorities view and treat people, to the tune of 422+ incidents of overreach, brutality, and aggression* that have hurt, injured, and even killed people they supposedly swore an oath to protect.

And with that comes a hard look at how we let things get to this point.  And what to do about it.  Be ready, for the tactics and fallacies are going to get deployed real fast, in thick clouds (and yes, that imagery is not chosen by accident), trying to excuse these actions.

Especially when it may be coming from within.  So let’s look at one of these fallacies in detail, because by doing so we can both recognize it when being deployed against us, and moreover inoculate ourselves from ourselves, from our own internal monologues that may also attempt to dismiss, or minimize, some of all that is going on.  And it is the No True Scotsman fallacy:

“No true Scotsman, or appeal to purity, is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample. Rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule – “no true Scotsman would do such a thing”; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman] **

This is, of course, nicely related to the “few bad apples” trope that is so readily trotted out.  (which, by the way, notice A) always only seems to get applied to one side of someone’s preferred group, ie, “our side has only a few bad apples, while the other side I am more than willing to tar with a broad brush and apply a single action/trait to degrade a whole group, and B) ignores that the complete saying is “one bad apple spoils the barrel.”)  But my own variant of it comes in this form:

“No climber/paintballer would ever steal my wallet.”

This comes from my days of playing paintball and, later, going to climbing gyms.  There were times where there were no lockers available, or place to stash something, or should I lock my car, or any of those kind of moments… and my mind would head straight into that fallacy:  “Well, I’m a good person, and I am a paintballer, so therefore paintballers are good, and besides, I’ve met a bunch of them, and they seem all like fun friendly people, so clearly I’ve got nothing to worry about…”  The same went for climbers.  “We’re all cool dudes and dudettes, all is safe.”

Fortunately for me, my wallet, or anything else, was never stolen.  But I’ve known others who have had things “walk away” in those kinds of situations, and I’ve been overcharged or otherwise tricked by paintballers and climbers alike.

This is a great example of what’s known as “positive bias” – instances of our hidden prejudices that favour those we have an affinity for, or an identity towards.  This quick piece on NPR is a great primer.

With these biases we can so easily deceive ourselves.  Especially as often we will do anything to avoid something uncomfortable.  Or to avoid a new truth that challenges us and our reality and our identities.  And this fallacy is an easy one to reach for.

But eating bitter is where true growth can happen.

 

* Keep scrolling in that thread — it’s a long list to get to 422+.  There’s also a spreadsheet here:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YmZeSxpz52qT-10tkCjWOwOGkQqle7Wd1P7ZM1wMW0E/edit#gid=0  All noted and saved for posterity, so that it cannot be forgotten or denied.

** Also, if you aren’t familiar with all of the logical fallacies, they are mightily powerful to learn about.  Here’s one site that does it in a lighthearted fashion:  https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/  and the more extensive wiki article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

It’s Tuesday

I really don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what more could be said that already hasn’t been said, and by many voices and in many more eloquent ways.  And maybe it isn’t a time for me to say much, but instead to listen.

And to that, listen… if this anger is a surprise to you, then I assert you have very likely been either willingly disengaged or deliberately dismissive and smug.  There is a lot of shit happening to people for no (real, justified) reason, a lot of disproportionate infliction of suffering, a lot of power plays and asshattery and sycophancy and pathological hording and so much treatment of others as nothing but pawns and expendable nothings, led by psychopaths who have closed themselves off to human connection.

I even spoke about it just a couple of weekends ago, about myself being table flippy from all the f-ed up parts of our systems that have been made worse and put onto stark display during the ‘natural’ event known as a pandemic.  And how much of that is supported by and held in place by our systems and how much we need to step up and speak up and especially to march to the ballot box and get our hands dirty in wrenching those systems back to serve us and not us serve a system that is designed to only serve a few.  And to that I still hold – step up, wrest control, and point things towards a world that works for everyone, with no one left out.

(And, of course, step one is to recognize that everyone includes EVERYONE.  There are no “that group/race/nationality/fandom/whatever over there are lazy or stupid or evil or lesser than or etc.”  I often think that should go without saying, but, of course as it turns out, it isn’t so automatic.  To many people, their so-called superiority is so much a part of their identity and they are willing to, and even hoping and wanting to, inflict and harm and fight and kill for it.  This is immoral, corrupt, depraved, and an absolute sin.)

But even then I must remember that I get to speak here from a platform of privilege.  I’m table flippy about many shitty things and about people being shitty, but some of those really shitty things I have the absolute luxury of not having to face.  Of not having to worry about.  Of not even having to think about them if I choose not to.

And so there is the moment to choose.  Choose to listen, to think about them, to reckon, and to support the voices, the actions, and the people who are leading things towards equity and justice.  With an absolute emphasis on the listening part, and to listen hard.  To read accounts like the one below, one filled with nothing one might consider extreme or outright cinematic, but the general, daily, so-common-it’s-in-the-background-but-it’s-always-there-like-a-sword-over-your-head experience of living in a system that is geared to make you and keep you a lessor (and potentially dead).  I likely won’t ever have this experience, but I can imagine it, and I must imagine it and listen to it and let it in.  So that I can be a more open person for having done it.  To ensure I account for any of my hidden biases (and remove them wherever I can).  And to be rightfully angered so that I never step over this kind of shit and let it slide.

This needs to end.

Please read this account by Asha Tomlinson, as reported on the CBC:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/raising-young-black-man-1.5594179.

 

Voices in Unison

Maybe it’s the environmental regulations that are being abandoned.  Maybe it’s the armed thugs who barged their way into an active legislature without being, at the very least, surrounded by SWAT if not arrested and hauled away.  Especially given that unarmed marginalized groups have largely suffered much worse while protesting peacefully, often while on their own land.  Maybe it’s that large corporations received huge sums of relief while small businesses continue to be shut out in the cold.  Maybe its that those same corporations have been blithely rewarding their shareholders and CEOs with record profit payouts while paying their employees poorly and, most certainly, not building a reserve to bridge this exact kind of downturn.  Maybe it’s that the tippy-top earners have seen their wealth grow by 200+ billion in the past few months while 36+ million people are suddenly unemployed and waiting for relief that may never come.  Maybe it’s the states that are purposefully ending their emergency orders in order to prevent people from collecting unemployment.  Maybe it’s the companies who call their employees ‘heroes’ but then turn around and refuse to pay them a living wage or to even give them proper protection.  Maybe it’s that trillions continue to be spent on military adventurism yet they resisted tooth and nail to spend anything to help the homefront.  Maybe it’s that there has been more domestic deaths now than there were in some of those wars (or things that started wars).

And maybe it’s just the general ineptitude, narcissistic nepotism, and the absconding of responsibility while claiming all the glory.  May you would just like leaders to be competent, thoughtful, and to, well, actually lead.

Maybe it is any of those things, and more, that have you, on some days, wanting to flip a table.  Yeah.  I feel you.  I’m there too.  This crisis has not only exacerbated the f-ed up parts of our system(s), but even more so has made them eminently visible.  It’s enough to sap one’s feeling of agency and the will to do right in the world.

But there is a salve.  While there are many conversations to be had to change the narratives we hold around these issues, it is equally and more worth remembering that these are and are held in place by systems, and specifically they are systems shaped and driven by policy.  And policy can be changed.  We have a kind of superpower we sometimes forget, and it is called the ballot box.   But, like everything else, it is only power if we use it.

If you live in the USA, please check out this YouTube channel aptly named:  How to Vote in Every State 2020.

And know that it may not be easy.  From closing polling places to misleading mailers to gerrymandered districts to limits on absentee ballots to onerous and unnecessary ID laws to dark money groups to all sorts of things, there are many forces trying to limit our voices.  And that doesn’t even count the day to day difficulty of managing work and childcare and everything else that renders our time a precious commodity, and adds to the strain of going to one of those limited voting spots and actually casting a ballot.  Democracy is being limited (and to be clear this is primarily and especially being done by right wing interests and legislators) because the less that we speak, and the less that we can speak, the easier it is for them to hold onto power.

Which is why it is important to start planning now.  Doing the work to register now so you can find what’s needed before the deadline comes.  Making plans with friends, family, co-workers now to ensure things will be covered that day such that and will you have a much higher chance to reach the poll to cast your ballot.  And maybe even to prepare some backup plans.

All so that we can get out there and get legislators and executives – nationally, stateside, and locally (All are important!  Most of what affects us on a day to day basis happens at the local level!) – to alter policy and set up the systems that work for the most good for the most people, moving the needle towards a more just, verdant, healthy, and equitable future.

Strike the E and the P from their name

At this point, I’m fully expecting mustache twirling.

The EPA, under direction from the current administration, suspended its enforcement of environmental laws.

Not just some of the laws and regulations – effectively all of them.  No monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, reporting, or certification obligations.  So long as the company says that it was due to COVID-19 and provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.

As if the EPA would request it.  Because there’s no end date set.

Even after the fallout from COVID-19 is done, this can stay on.

Plus the EPA has clearly stated that it won’t pursue penalties if companies break the rules.

There are not even any provisions to take action should a company do something egregious or if there is immediate threat to health – at best the EPA has said they would tell “state authorities.”

This is beyond reprehensible.  They are using the cover of a crisis to cause active and ongoing harm to people, to people’s livelihoods, to the future.  There could be another Cuyahoga River incident tomorrow, and they would shrug.

This is not good.

 

(And just to be sure both sides of their moustaches gets attention, they also just dropped fuel economy standards.)

BailoutBS

So wait.  In the last 5 years, airlines spent $44B on stock buybacks.  That’s 96% of their free cash flow.  Plus billions more on dividends.  They did not improve their services, nor improve their structure, nor, and this is the biggie, did they save anything for the inevitable downturns or other acts of woe.*

They act fiscally irresponsible, line their pockets, impoverish us, and now they want a bailout?  They have the audacity to ask for a bailout?  A bailout that is essentially in size of what they spent on buybacks?

This is why good governance is important.  This is why oversight is important.  This is why societal involvement and accountability is important.

THIS is why your/our vote matters!

 

* Nor, of course, did they boost their employee pay, or working conditions, or aid the consumer in any way… but that’s a whole other story.

** As a whole, the top 500 companies spent $5T on buybacks + dividends vs $4.5T in earnings — they are willingly and wantonly enriching themselves while foisting their liabilities into debt and the public trust & our pocketbooks (by both charging more and paying employees less, plus foisting costs into the environment into which we all live).  All aided by the recent tax code “revision” (read: giveaway).