Attention Whoring, Indignant, Media, Socialism

Getting Arrested is My Only Inspiration

There’s a thought that keeps screaming back into your head – it’s as if you’ve left this thought to run away on its own, but it’s attached by a bungee cord and at some point you’re smacked in the face by this thought again: “I shouldn’t be here. I haven’t done anything wrong. No one thinks I’ve done anything wrong.”

We’ve named our set of jail cells “correctional facilities” despite the fact that they are not intended to correct and are barely facilities. It’s like some morbid stand up comedy routine. There are 8 of us in 4 cells. 3 men to my left, 1 man to my right, two men in the cell with me, and two women in a cell within yelling distance. We’ve all been arrested for various degrees of being a tourist. One man can’t stop ranting about how all he did was pat a cop on the back and say “good job” sarcastically. From their our crimes become more and more confusing. One was trying to put away a sign he was legally allowed to carry, but didn’t do it quick enough. Another didn’t want to put away a sign. Another put away his sign and started to walk away in order to follow police instructions. Me and another were standing near the guy who tried to walk away. One accidentally backed up into a police blow-horn. Another was accidentally backed up into by a police officer.

None of us wanted to get arrested that day, but the feeling doesn’t change when you intend to get arrested. You still feel like getting arrested is not a proper response to a mild disagreement about where to stand.

Honors British American Literature was the first class I had with Lucas Michelson. I knew him vaguely as the rich kid. I’m sure he knew me vaguely as the tiny vegetarian. We quickly came to not particularly care for each other. It wasn’t hatred. It wasn’t even true dislike, but it was a disagreement about how to handle life that we weren’t quite mature enough to handle in discussion. One day Lucas went to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom. He had been sitting in the comfy chair. I had been sitting in it at the beginning of class, but I had gotten up to get a drink and go to the bathroom. Now the chair was free and I was free to take it back. He had set the rules that a free chair was a free chair, and though I disagreed with his ruling, the rules were now turned in my favor. I retook the chair and our classmates applauded my decision. It wasn’t that Lucas was disliked. He was. But so was I. It was that we had all witnessed his original seat stealing antics and had decided against trying to reason with the spoiled kid with the well known temper problem. When he re-entered the classroom, Mrs. Lyons’ large wooden hall pass dangling from his wrist, his eyes lite up with fury. The primordial screams of “GET OUT OF MY CHAIR!” seemed to echo in my ears as he grabbed me by the throat and picked me up – feet dangling above where my books and homework assignments had fallen. Mrs. Lyons was a measly 3 feet away and yelled with the same force “LUCAS!” Her scream was surrounded by a cloud of confusion and disappointment. Though I never scream at the cops, I feel that same cloud of confusion and disappointment surrounding the words I do say to them.

When I was slammed down on the ground, I asked if I was under arrest. “Am I under arrest?” It wasn’t a snarky response to a police officer to claim a higher understanding of my rights. It was a question asked out of genuine confusion as it seemed as though I had just been collateral damage as the cop tackled a crowd of people trying to leave a crowded area. It was a question I was realizing the answer to as I asked it and it filled me with disappointment. Disappointment in this police officer, disappointment in the country, disappointed that we lived in a society that would immediately interrogate me and my motives first.

We all spent 11 hours in those tiny cells without getting a drop of food before we were shipped off to another jail cell. I tried to sleep, but I kept getting woken up by this thought. This thought that I shouldn’t be here, I didn’t do anything wrong, nobody thinks I did anything wrong.

The cops don’t even want to look you in the eye because they know they’ve screwed up. Your “arresting officer” is never the one who tossed you to the pavement, but they know you have no reason to be there. They feel guilt and shame but it doesn’t change their actions because they’ve been told a job is more important that morality. They’ve been told that you do what the rules say not what you believe – and this becomes an increasingly difficult tightrope to walk as the rules keep getting changed.

The system is broken because it pits the guilty against the confused in an effort to distract from the evil. The system is broken and needs to be corrected, but in its last act of self-preservation the system got rid of the correctional facilities. Let’s create our own correctional facilities. Let’s start correcting the facilities that be without fear of laws because laws do not translate to morality - that connection is becoming thinner and thinner every day. If we have morality on our side then we will eventually tear down the laws that bind us to immorality. At least, we have to believe that. At least, I have to believe that. For me. And Mrs. Lyons.

Standard
Indignant, Socialism

A Plea For Sanity In Economic Thought

I’m not opposed to positive reinforcement which is essentially the idea behind incentive based economies – the economy America keeps demanding that we have and we have more of – but we’ve gone too far. We’re now incentivising doing good for yourself and out of fear of being hypocritical we’re punishing doing good for others. We’ve become a culture defined by its economics, and the economic system is one that punishes sharing – that is based on the idea that empathy is dead, or at very least a silly concept born out of childish naivete.

While I’m not sold on the idea that empathy and positive reinforcement are incompatible, if we are to treat that as the choice we must make then we have a tough decision on our hands. The decision is grounded in this simple question: What happens to the psychopaths? We can either pat lots of people on the back at the risk of patting the wrong person on the back, giving psychopaths our endorsement and our resources, or we can act as indiscriminately with our second chances, giving psychopaths fewer resources but more opportunities to use those limited resources. With fewer resources psychopathy has a harder time mounting power, though with more opportunities psychopathy has an easier time conning their way into laziness. You give psychopaths resources you end up with people like Bernie Madoff and companies like Goldman Sachs. You give them opportunities you get “welfare queens.” Which is more destructive? Which do we truly believe hurts us more?

We can strive to be the society that has left the largest mark on our world through the unchecked psychopathic reign of a few (these are the societies that created the pyramids and the great wall of china, though our great accomplishment will be a large hole in the ozone layer) or do we strive to create a society in which the people who are here in the present are happy and creative and our psychopathic few are kept in check through comfortable but mindless tasks. Do we suffer evil or lazy?

I propose this, but don’t think we need to answer this question.

I believe there is another conclusion that starts with a rethinking of how we define culture and economy. As I said before, we define our culture through our economy. Black Friday and Valentines Day are holidays in America that were created solely by economic forces. Buying a house and a car has become an American right of passage – ideas created to increase the bottom line of industries in power. In America, the question “what do you do?” is aimed at finding out how you acquire money. Because culture is being decided by economy, empathy has been pushed aside. There was no mathematical way to talk about how empathy and profit are correlated when America was defining itself as a superpower. While that’s changed, and an empathetic culture has proven to provide a longer-term profit, it’s more important to change the direction of the equation. No longer should we be slaves to the economy because money should not dictate how we live, rather we should dictate how money lives. Money is simply pieces of paper and metal, right? We need to embrace the idea that our economic system needs to be a reaction to our culture, and if we change our culture first – specifically to something empathy based – than our economics will change too. If we define our culture and let our economy follow, economics will have the best interests of the people in mind as opposed to having the best interests of the money in mind.

Defining culture does not mean that we define what a family should look like, or how a person should dress, culture is how we treat others within our society, so let’s define our culture to be one where empathy reigns supreme and psychopathy is shunned.

Standard
Selfish, Socialism

I am a Barista Person

I gave my two weeks notice at what will hopefully be the last food service job I ever work. Food service and I have a relationship, and as with any good relationship there is horrible emotional turmoil. Mostly I have worked as a barista. It is a noun, it is a verb, it is even an adjective in the title of this blog entry, but it is rarely a profession. It is a job that some people take way too seriously and end up in competitions because of, but it is a job. Most people who do it don’t want to do it any more, but have addictions to food, rent, and art – mostly art. They deserve our tip money. They are good people.

Last week a woman ordered a Large Iced Americano. The Americano at our cafe involves two shots of espresso and then water. The amount of water changes depending on if you order a small or a large. This means that a large involves a lot of water. So I wasn’t surprised when she sidled awkwardly up to the counter and politely demanded that she get to cut in line to politely explain that her drink was watery.

I hate barista stories about shitty customers who don’t understand what the drink they order is. It’s okay to not understand the drink you ordered because you don’t spend 8 hours a day in a coffee shop like a barista does. Our job as food service employees is to politely explain the food that they ordered so that they understand how to order it better next time.

I politely apologized for our policy on including two shots of espresso in all sizes of our Americanos and politely offered to add additional shots to her Americano for $0.50 – which is this cafe’s unreasonably low price for an additional double shot of espresso. She politely explained that she did not want to pay extra money because we gave her a watery drink. I wanted to politely explain that I didn’t want to give her free things because she ordered a shitty drink and then politely stick my fingers in her mouth and make her deal with the taste of my dirty fingertips on her tongue the rest of the day, but instead my fellow barista saw the cartoon steam billowing from my ears and stepped in to solve the problem by giving her free things for ordering a shitty drink.

Working in food service often does mean that parts of your life are not what you want them to be. It indicates a certain amount of failure. Especially in New York. All of us baristas, servers, bartenders, etc. have come to terms with that and talk about it to each other. But this life decision failure does not imply that we are worse at everything than those we serve. Especially serving food and drink. Because we’ve been forced to spend so much time serving that food and drink, we are better at it then our customers. That’s why we get paid the big bucks/change you didn’t want to keep in your pocket.

I truly believe in the draft – a common experience for entire generations to talk about forever where they dedicated themselves to bettering the world around them. I don’t believe that war betters the world around us. Food does. I truly believe in the food-service draft – where everyone from ages 14-22 must work at least 9 months in food-service. One must understand what it’s like to pick out stranger’s half eaten food from a drain pipe in order to understand how to do dishes correctly when you live with people. One must understand how to organize an efficient list of tasks that are both menial and degrading that a higher up has given you to make it seem like you are busy in order to understand how to prioritize your laundry and check cashing tasks for the day. Most importantly, one must understand how to serve people and maintain an environment in which people enjoy being in order to understand how to be a member of a community.

The laundry for our apartment building is in the apartment building two doors down in a building owned by the same management. 66 people use these three washers and three dryers, but because the people who own them are a reality management company and not a laundromat, they don’t clean the laundry room very often. Our laundry room is dirty – there is dust everywhere, a pair of panties that has been sitting on the ground for two and a half weeks, and the trash bin, which is tied to a heating pipe with a piece of string, has been overflowing for a week and yet people keep stuffing their dryer lint on top as though someone is going to take out this bag of trash. I don’t think I need to go over the cultural implications that someone is more worried that a plastic trash receptacle gets stolen by criminals too lazy to untie a knot than worried about getting rid of the trash the receptacle holds. What I’m more concerned by is the attitude taken by us tenants.

Each time I go down and think: “this is disgusting. Somebody better clean this up.” and then I think “I should clean this up.” and then I think “it’s not my job to clean this up.” and then it stays messy. It may not be my job, but I’m affected by it, and it’s not that hard to fix. Just as I get frustrated when someone sees a napkin next to someone else’s spilled milk and dances around the spill with their coffee as though it is a radioactive e-coli strain searching for human flesh to eat through, forcing me to walk all the way around the counter and wipe up a bit of dairy, I need to take out the trash and replace the trash bag instead of forcing some guy who lives in Bay Ridge to drive all the way to my apartment building to take out some trash.

So I did.

I didn’t sweep the floor or pick up the panties, but… baby steps. Maybe I’ll do it out of nostalgia now that I’m leaving food-service.

Standard
Death, Gender, Lonely, Math, Media, My favorites, race, Socialism

In Which I Qualitate/Quantitate

Don’t read this until you are ready to READ this. By that I mean, click on all links. You don’t have to read them, but they are an important part of the narrative. But do read the last link. It is the most important and is a news story and provides context.

c) I’m pretty sure that everything I think has been thought before.

That is simultaneously comforting and terrifying.

Often times our world is misled by what we think we think though. We then suffer under the great injustice that is our own misconceptions of ourselves. Specifically, the fact that 4 million more people watch Modern Family than The Middle. Both shows analyze the changing definition of the American dream, but one does it through shallow analysis of obvious xenophobia and one does it through thoughtful revelations about the inhumanity inherent in a capitalist society that refuses to empathize with struggle. Modern Family is a person who has not listened’s analysis, The Middle is someone who paid attention’s analysis.

1. I have had arguments with three people who have stated their frustration with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Each of them went like this:
Them: “I agree with what they’re saying, I just don’t know what they’re saying.”
Me: “Have you been down to Zuccotti Park?”
Them: “No” and a bunch of more words that don’t matter.

2. I have a belief that Taylor Swift is doing the more harm to American society than Lady Gaga – specifically that Taylor Swift is doing the most harm and Lady Gaga is doing the most negative harm (negative used in the mathematical sense). This belief is challenged often. Typically those conversations go like this:
Me: “Don’t ask, don’t tell would have been repealed 3 years earlier if it weren’t for Taylor Swift.”
Them: “That’s ridiculous” They’re right “Lady Gaga isn’t even saying anything. She’s just the same mindless pop that we’ve had forever.”
Me: “Have you heard her new album?”
Them: “Um..” and a bunch of defensive lies about how they have an appropriate sample size that don’t matter.

3.

2. Frankie Heck – Patricia Heaton’s character on The Middle is a true hero of the Michael Moore union version of socialism. She is a lighthouse that shines light through all the cracks in the American Dream. Hard work equals hard work, but having money equals having money. Surrounding her is pain and suffering that is solely the gift of a desire for things she is told she deserves. And yet this could all be solved with a simple sharing of some wealth. It doesn’t need to be opportunity because we don’t all need to the freedom to try. We need the freedom to succeed. And success is not defined by being in the 1%. Then only 1% of us, necessarily succeed. I aim for 100%.

I like to play a game called turn concepts into rants for socialism in as few sentences as possible.

Standard
Indignant, Socialism

Occupy, In Which I Say…

b) I’m tired of our forced hatred of numbers. As artists, numbers are the enemy, right? They make emotion seem irrelevant, right? They make people seem like quantities, right? Wrong, they allow us to see the world in a way in which analysis becomes possible. Analysis without numbers is not analysis – it’s speculation.

Here’s some numbers:

There are 11,000 people who are considered to be a part of the wealthiest 0.01% of Americans.

The poorest of that group of people makes $8,579,000 a year.

The average person in that group makes $35,473,200 a year.

Now, let’s let emotion creep in. Specifically the emotion of empathy.

44,000,000 Americans make less than $36,000 a year

Does anyone really need to make more than 8.5 million a year, when almost half of our country lives on $3000 a month? What’s the point in that? What good is their 9th or 10th million doing? Is it actually incentivizing anybody to let millionaires keep their 12th million dollar?

If we took all of the money that people make past 8.5 million dollars per year and gave it to the government that would give us $295,836,200,000. That’s without raising any current taxes, just taking away any money that anybody makes past 8.5 mill in a year. At 8.5 you get cut off. We only implement a new tax – I call it “The Max Tax.”

If we brought that cut off down to the top 0.1% income earners – in other words the top 110,000 people in America in terms of money made – the cut off would be at $1,532,400. It would also bring in $686,891,700,000 (aka: the bank bailout – aka: the money we gave to the people in this income bracket).

If we split that money evenly between the bottom half of America’s income earners, we would be giving them each $12,488.94.

I’m not suggesting we do that, but we should do that.

Source.

Standard
Math, Socialism

Why Math Can Save Me From Having Babies

I liked how math was always a discovery and never an invention. I preferred when people say that Newton “discovered” Calculus as opposed to Newton “inventing” the mathematical system. Discovery implies that this system of numbers and operations was inherently true in our world, but had not yet been found until Newton started drawing graphs. Mathematicians were talked about like explorers – they were Magellans of the mind – and that seemed cool.

That’s what I wanted to do.

I wanted to be an old timey explorer with a couple brass’n’glass instruments that helped me draw maps of the new islands I discovered filled with animals and plants that I discovered, but the more school I went to, the more I felt like everything on the globe had been discovered. Our world was finite – even if we hadn’t discovered every island or every canyon or every tributary, soon we would. But in Math! In math the exploration was unending – numbers were infinite. They were the first thing that was ever infinite. But to me it wasn’t just numbers. It wasn’t just adding, subtracting, and super-exponenting. To me it was about ideas. Mathematicians were explorers discovering new ideas and then sharing them with the world. They found how numbers worked and then they told everybody without patenting or protecting because these ideas could be used bye everybody to further new ideas.

This is where my issue with intellectual property comes in.,. As a struggling, starving, strangely shaped artist, I obviously believe that I should be paid for what I do, and more importantly have a say in how my art is presented because, after all, it’s MY art. But the idea of art is that it is a way to inspire ideas – that it is ideas, and how can you claim ownership over ideas? Don’t they just exist in the ether and someone was smart enough to discover them? How can one hold back idea from the rest of the world? What right do I have as an artist to do that?

Maybe I don’t believe in invention. Maybe I think of invention as the literal creation of tangible objects – the assembly line worker is closer to the inventor than the idea man.  Discovery is still important, but we have this cultural fetish with inventing. Inventing is a more tangible thing to pay someone for. This is why capitalism fails. Ideas are not sellable because ideas are not created. They are found. It’s rude to discover something and then sell it.

Magicians buy tricks. They spend uncomfortably large sums of money on a trick at a magic shop that they then perform in front of people without telling them how they are doing it. This insures that people will keep coming back to them to see the trick. This insures that they can be the government that regulates their own economy.

We need to stop living like magicians. If we live like magicians, we’ll never get male birth control.

Standard
Gender, Indignant, My favorites, Socialism

The Worst People in the World Were on the F-Train

She had gotten a salt bagel with hummus because “we’re in New York, honey” but now the hummus was spilling out the sides. As her jaw clenched around her breakfast, the bagel clenched and the ground garbanzo oozed outwardly.

“Here, honey”

He began uncrumpling the white paper bag that their Brooklyn experience had been served in. He blew into the bag to open it. This did nothing besides convince himself that he had helped.

“Put this under your bagel.”

He handed her the bag turned cumbersome bib proud that he had figured out his own what all New Yorkers had to be taught when they started eating bagels for breakfast at 4 years old.

“Wait.”

He explained his new realization that the age old bag under the bagel could be improved by tossing napkins in the bottom of the receptacle to soak up the excess bagel filling. He didn’t explain his even newer realization that this made no sense and was completely unnecessary because he was still on a high from improving on being a native New Yorker.

He thought about how “He kissed her” is a really nice sentence, but “she kissed him” seems scary. Before he had to worry about this anymore he decided it best to kiss her on the cheek and also offer his seat to a woman riding the subway alone. SHE was 40 years old and able to stand for HERself. Obviously it was necessary for HIM to find a place for the bag full of napkins and preparation for excess hummus that never occurred and the three shopping bags of Macy’s items. His bag of napkins was proving difficult to store appropriately as it was a little greasy and he was worried about leaving a grease stain on the subway floor.

He worried that a real New Yorker would have just carried the bag instead of shoving it face down under the seat where the grease stain would be less bothersome to other subway passengers. Then he was distracted by watching his girlfriend’s nose point at his navel.

“Why’d you do that?”

She responded to his poking of her nose accompanied by an exclamation of “boop!” He wanted to tell her “because we’re in New York,” but he knew that that didn’t make any sense. Maybe it was just vacation that was making him so giddy, he thought as he retook his seat that he had given up out of chivalry. Luckily he didn’t have time to think as another woman was standing alone. SHE was nearly 60 years old probably, though it was hard to tell with the Asians. He knew this wasn’t a very New York thing to do (standing up for two different people on a subway ride), but there were somethings that just needed to be universal.

“Or either of you.”

He didn’t really understand why the man wanted to take his seat while the woman didn’t, but maybe it was an Asian thing.

“Oh my god.”

She mouthed to herself but within vision of her boyfriend to express how strange it was to sit next to an old smelly Asian man on the subway. It’s too bad she had to marry someone so nice, but at least her parents liked him.

 

I have an obligation to society, that if society gives me more, then I must give more. And to those given least by society, we give more. I once argued with a woman in a bar I was working about chivalry and she questioned my lack of chivalry by asking if I would stand up for a woman in heels after a long day of work, to which I countered “would you stand up for a man in heels?” Let’s please be understanding of the things we give. That if the real distinction to be made is between person in heels and person in flats, then let’s not associate that with anything else even if they are correlated. My favorite first year statistics lesson is the lesson on correlation where the student is asked to think about why we can’t exclaim that ice-cream cures the common cold because there are less cases of the common cold when more people are eating ice-cream. The student rightfully ascribes both the lack of ice-cream eating and virility of the common cold virus to the common cold outside. Therefore correlation and causality are not the same. Therefore ice-cream does not cure the common cold. Therefore person in heels does not equal woman. Therefore getting up for a woman on the subway does not equal getting up for a person society has forced to feel a need to be gotten up for. It is fine to treat different genders differently as long as it is countering the difference that those genders are treated by society. Also: understand: historical prospective. That as a straightwhiteman I have been given opportunities that others have not, and therefore – especially if we are not going to allow our governments to redistribute power through socialism – I have a obligation to society to give more back to members of society – specific members of society.

 

I bet you that they had aspirations to be in a country club.

 

Standard