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?
Since the beginning, America has struggled between two destinies: God and Gold. The Virginians and southern colonies birthed by Corporations and Massachusetts and it’s offshoots birthed by the Cloth. Later Slave and Free. Internal migration has shifted the strongholds as we grew and the struggle continues. In the Pax Americana, God is embodied in American Values and physical gold has become the intangible notion of Capital.
American Values have become endangered in the 21st century. The change from liberalism to neoliberalism was mostly removing the morality from the pursuit of profit. Sweat shop child labor became acceptable again for low low prices. Factory shuttering and relocation to countries where worker exploitation is still in vogue has damaged not just an American’s earning potential but our integrity. American world power is more than the number of aircraft carriers we have. It is that the international community is held to our standards and those that fall short are not rewarded. The current administration has voiced that profits are more important than human rights, the cornerstone of Americanism. This has been unspoken policy for some time.
How else can we explain American business’ dependence on China as anything other than selling out our values?
The Great Firewall blocks the truth and free speech maintained in large thanks to American companies. Google gave the Chinese government the data of dissents who are now jailed or executed. How do we explain a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia? A country that practices gender apartheid. A woman last month was detained in the Philippines while fleeing to Australia to escape a forced marriage who was beaten and tied up like a slave by the relatives sent to retrieve her. Our former territory is just as horrific under the murderer Duarte.
The American Way isn’t just a marketing phrase for comic books. It is why the Union won, why the Reich fell, and why Americans are still dying in the desert. It would be an incomprehensible tragedy for Freedom and Justice to survive the jihad to be slaughtered in the boardroom.
– E. C. Fiori
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.
It has been a struggle to post this last week. To find a purpose in doing so. In a world so determined to end itself, I feel attempting to stop the suicide to be a grain of sand caught in the oceanic drift.
On the right, a crowd whose empathy ends with their outer dermal layer. On the left, a crowd who see empathy as an end or rather see no further than feeling.
AHCA is a bad bill. It hasn’t been scored by the CBO and as such there is no analysis what it will do. It will cause people to lose coverage and thats enough for it to not live up to the GOP promise. They forgot the dead can’t vote.
P.C. Culture is a failed solution to real problems in society. After 27 years of academic witch hunts, it fractured the Dems coalition. Pushing former leftists into the Alt-Right. Kids still get gunned down by cops for no reason everyday.
The Alt-Right a vague coalition of reactionaries to whom 1950 is still hell. They are the product of the bubbles we built. Rejected by all, they have come to raze and pillage and rape. Armored in our beloved Irony, they are immune to shame and guilt. They are the priests and flocks of whataboutism and the ultimate product of the internet. They are something new. They wish to supplant democracy and install a CEO, one without a board to answer to.
Those of us outside their circle must decide if we wish to live in a society that self-governs or to bow. That decision must begin with real bipartisanship from both sides. ACA was always more conservative in its solution than progressive. The GOP could repair it and show alternative to single payer healthcare. Progressivism needs to promote concrete quantifiable solutions and worry less about when an ally trips. Those would be baby steps.
Art doesn’t function as a window and politics isn’t a football game. We can either accept the world and save democracy or drown in our own shit.
Louis Hyman wrote an op-ed against saving America’s Main Street. Walmart is more efficient. Their low prices just by virtue of bulk buying power. He not only ignores their lower wages and reliance on part time to avoid benefits. His future is either as a remote receptionist probably part time working at minimum wage for a metropolitan office or hustling crafts online. A job is a job but neither is a secure future. The advantage of a remote receptionist is the business can avoid the salary requirements of a city resident while maintainig an office in the right address. The second is the digital hustle. I think more people digital hustle the digital hustle than any other good. Either way, they still serve the same urban elite masters.
The notion of replacing modern manufacturing with the virtual bazaar has become a new Horatio Algers myth. That everyone’s merit will shine a beacon of success if they spend enough time on the internet. Society has long assumed talent is cream but skill or even being skilled at promoting one’s skill is no guarantee. A lottery at best, putting all your eggs into the whims of the internet is dangerous. Hyman’s woods craftsmen would better talking to the shop owners of main street Echo Park and Bushwick who could showcase his wares to the well off audience, he would be stalking online. We’ve all been hawked snake oil from those on the other side of the rainbow. Does that mean that one shouldn’t try or internet infrastructure expanded? No, it means there are no small fixes for the end of an economic age.
Hyman’s solution flaw like most progressive solutions is based on people other than the author making changes as the author has achieved cultural nirvana. I don’t think he understands main street as the average citizen does only has it is seen in liberal straw man scenarios. “It’s locally owned shops selling products to hardworking townspeople. It’s neighbors with dependable blue-collar jobs in auto plants and coal mines. It’s a feeling of community and of having control over your life.” The last sentence is true but the rest is disconnected. Would you rather enrich a spoiled heir or help your underwater neighbor? That’s the real choice between chain and local. Would you rather wealth stay in the region or go to tax breaks for out of state and increasingly country movie stars? How many years can you be told it will trickle down before you don’t believe?
Main street isn’t just about shops. It is about having safe public spaces to congregate. A place a child can meet with friends without fear of being offered drugs or harmed into silence over witnessing crime. It is a place children want to return to after college and a way to stem brain drain. It isn’t trying to make Celebration, USA in every town or bringing back the 50’s.
My great grandmother had to drown her cat as a child because of the depression. Her son had a dog that died of old age and his daughter paid 10k to save her dog from cancer. I’m pet free to avoid the fate of door #1. The contract of the New Deal is broken and Americans want to re-negotiate. 80 years ago, we were given economic freedom. Defending the system that stole it will only further our slide back to serfdom. We need futures not dependent on the fads of the wealthy. Coal might be dead but America isn’t.
Rep. Nunes according to sources close to Speaker Ryan will not be bringing the potato salad to the Mensa picnic. That is the one certain piece of knowledge in this week’s Trump implosion over Russia.
Recents reports by the NYTimes revealed the intelligence about Trump team members’ communication being accidentally picked up by legal surveillance on foreign agents wasn’t just hot air but hot air blew in from the White House. Were the foreign agents Russian? We don’t know. We do know no laws were broken and this is a far cry from Trump’s claim of an Obama wiretap.
In what is a political equivalent of the call is coming from inside the house. The investigatee has become the investigator. As humorous as Nunes actions are, they can’t be viewed as less than gravely troubling. The GOP will do anything to keep the government theirs but rule. With each day passing being more and more revelations over what Russia did during the election and what the Trump campaign knew and when, Nunes’ refusal to uncover the truth becomes more Treasonist.
Maybe Trump wants to be removed under impeachment. He did say we would want to lose because we would be winning so much as he always does. This might be up there with the Alice’s Restaurant-Nixon theory but the president’s mind has proven unknowable. Mark Cuban claims he doesn’t have the wits to conspire. I don’t agree with him on that but I do think Trump is arrogant enough to think he could survive.
Meanwhile, the heartland still fades and status quo marches forward. Perhaps Nunes WH connect wanted to raise smoke to hide their own leadership failures in an administration three months in without a win.