This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing.
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
Chaffetz is stepping down.
The Trump team knew of the Flynn investigation before hiring him.
Comey kept a paper trail.
I don’t want to leap off a cliff of fancy but it isn’t hyperbole to say something is very wrong.
Chaffetz fleeing the spotlight is like canary dying. He showboated his way to the top of the DC attention heap. Backstabbing his mentors at each opening. His claim that he never planned to spent a lifetime as rep. doesn’t explain why he won’t finish his current term. His position as chairman on the House oversight committee does. Trump is too beloved by Chaffetz’s base to investigate but too hated by the general voter to ignore. Will voters remember his yellow streak in 2028? His url thinks not.
In the White House, more light is being shed. Trump’s team knew Flynn was being investigated for undisclosed payments from a foreign government when they chose him to head the National Security Council. Trump did fire Comey due to the Russian collusion investigation and told the Russians as much. Sessions who lied in his nomination hearing about meeting with the Russians is still AG, the one who ensures the President stays within the law. We do know Trump has business with Russian entities. Any Russian deals done through a shell are still unknown.
We still don’t know a great deal. We can’t say anything criminal has happened but there is enough evidence for cause to investigate. I think a rush to impeach or remove Trump would backfire. He has been the most damning witness in his own scandal. But we also can never take him at his word. You could at least trust Nixon to look out for Nixon but Trump seems to be unaware of the lines he crosses. Its like how the wall was going to be like the one from Game of Thrones magic and all but really is a chain link fence, congress won’t fund.
I think Trump is unfit and mentally inept for the standards of the presidency. He doesn’t need to be a criminal to be removed but the country would need to be united in chorus for it to happen. Rush Limbaugh changed the title from Advanced Conservative Studies to Advanced Anti-Left Studies. Our democracy has become a sport and religion. We no longer debate policy but preach to hostile converts. We don’t fight in an agreed arena and at some metaphysical level lost our American social contract. This is not a first or a last. The Civil War was the first re-negotiation. The second took place over 25 years beginning with Theodore Roosevelt’s Fair Deal finalized with FDR’s New Deal. Republicans and neo liberals since the Reagan revolution dismantled that agreement. They bring no replacement to the table.
We need to have a society. No one desires the freedom of Somaliland. Community on a large scale is a tremendous gift of humanities. It doesn’t function without effort. It may be imperfect but the cruelties can be softened. If we believe modern is defined as higher quality of life, it should go beyond. Trump is not the Emperor, he is the child. He has shown the empty state of the government and no impeachment can reverse that. People trust a government when they trust their neighbor no matter where they lie on the political spectrum.
We cannot allow foreign influence in our process of rebirth. That’s why all the current investigations not just the search for criminal evidence matter. We cannot let others define us. Trump is the lesser consequence of the Russian interference.
There are many reasons to feel trapped by technology. Giving up email would make the modern job search very hard. Giving up Social Media would distance you from your social group even for those who only check when notified. Giving up the smart phone once again would make the job hunt harder, the job harder possibly, and navigation impossible without a map on hand. Without a computer and Office, well you would need more manpower and effort to maintain the current workload. However, I feel Farhad Manjoo’s NYTimes piece missed the hold of tech on us.
Maybe it is because I am too poor to enjoy the glory of the internet. I can’t afford an Echo let alone to pay anyone to install anything in my home. I am the Taskee not the Tasker. I think the internet means different things to different people. I personally hate Yelp to me it is a collection of attention grabbers and whiners. I wouldn’t flag people on the street for recommendations, why would I trust someone who is compiled to force theirs on me. Same goes for Amazon reviews. One example: My A/C broke a few weeks ago. I went to Costco and saw they had a budget model. I google’d it at my girlfriends request. A few reviews said it was so noisy, the reviewer couldn’t sleep. I bought it anyway (Costco returns are so easy, unlike online). It ended up being significantly quieter than my last one (which was 15 years old). Youtube for me is a memory of pre-21 in high school and college hanging out awkwardly in some basement with friends waiting for booze to arrive or parents to leave and kinda wishing I was home.
Instead the internet controls through smoke and mirrors. In this month’s Atlantic, theres a great article about how online prices especially the list price are framed to only make you perceive you got a deal while possibly paying more than other users. Twitter flurries appear as mass reaction even though it is an small percentage of users commenting let alone a small percentage of the population as a whole. Facebook encourages echo chambers which had no small part in electing Trump.
I do agree with Manjoo’s fear of the comfort tech creates. It is another illusion. To click and receive. Yet as cyberattacks especially ransomware increase, the comfort becomes a security flaw. Alexa is not a personal assistant but the property of Amazon on loan. As we give control of our lives to these networked systems, we don’t increase our practical knowledge of them. It is no different than magic and we become marks for wizards, who are always waiting in the virtual. We are sold gadgets and apps on the notion, they give us tools to gain control but the only tools of control exist in coding.
The only way out is to stop selling ourselves into serfdom. It begins with reclaiming ownership of the self. An act as simple and rebellious as buying a physical day planner at Staples.
France has long been the highlight of the socialist argument. Now with the party’s largest postwar failure, the limits of the socialist ideology has been shown. They have long heralded the notion of late capitalism, only to be survived by it.
Most have yet to grapple with the loss of the left and the right. It isn’t hard to understand when viewed within the context of who I refer to as “Marie Antoinette Socialists”: people from the top 20% who went to college and work as “young professionals” (workers who don’t create products as much as “value”. These roles require a strong capitalism to exist). They support hand outs to feel better about their own status. They favor system reform in any area that doesn’t require major change for them. This democratic socialism needs an open market while largely blaming that same market for any imperfection. On the reverse is blue collar workers on gov support whether farm subsides or disability/unemployment. These sons of Jefferson vote against the programs that support them in the name of freedom. They have skills that have real value outside of the market. Things people would need without the existence of dollars. It is foolish for the Gender studies professor to mock their mechanic for not understanding how the world works. They are the modern wolf being held by the ears.
The left and right as relevant terms only continues thanks to hypocrisy of a sort. As more subjects fall off the spectrum, social issue divides become increasingly played up. As the amount of homophobes decreases to the size of the LGBTQ community, the larger middle plays referee between two minorities. This is at some level a distraction from perhaps the largest shift in work since the dawn of agriculture.
The digital revolution will be the end of work as a source of living. Yes even for lawyers despite their smirk otherwise at reading this. Judge Watson has analyzed your interpretation of past court rulings within the framework of all legal thought ever recorded before you finish the sentence. Defendants will want a lawyer who can do the same. Computers are the professional professionals, the most knowledgable experts who don’t need a tie to hide their souls. I don’t mean that as a slight against lawyers but as an argument against those who believe human creatively to be permanently unique. Time makes John Henrys of us all.
Just as the New Deal bought society into the industrial age, we need a new social contract that accounts for the state of the world as it is.