December 2008

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Quick Life Update…

Just a random smattering of updates and thoughts…

-Glendi just left for two months in Guatemala. I miss her a lot. It’s hard when we’re apart, especially when we’re both in very different contexts. More money on phone cards once again! And then in February I’m heading down for two weeks and I am so, so excited!

-Currently reading Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. That book is blowing me away. For some reason (probably because I haven’t read a non-fantasy book in awhile, shame on me), this book is really getting my imagination going, not just my anger. Giving me a lot that I want to eventually write about here.

-Right now I’m playing around with two game designs: Struggle (tentative name), a customizable card game based around radical politics and social movements. And another cooperative board game in which each player represents a region of a country that has recently had a revolution, and you have to make the new socialist economy work for everyone in a participatory way. Both have basic rules and turn orders outlined. But I always get hung up on the math. I guess I just need to kick out some prototypes, play with some eager and patient friends, and then tweak the math and balance from there. Someday I might have my game design collective!

-Got an electronic USB music Keyboard for Christmas from Glendi and my folks. I want to learn how to play some music. I think there is a really good songwriter hidden away within me. Painter or sculptor? No! But potential songwriter? I think possibly.

-Work feels like work. Shouldn’t feel this way, it should feel more fun, like dream jobs are supposed to feel. But it feels like work. Slogging, struggling, bubbling, gubbling work!

-I’m really upset about what is happening in Gaza, and I wish I understood more. The fiction that modern war creates is often so much stronger than the reality, no matter how many lives are taken (especially when those lives come from poor and brown countries).

-If you don’t already know, I absolutely love Karaoke. We ordered a new microphone for our house, and I can’t wait until it arrives and I can sing anew!

Just a quick observation to keep me writing.

I was taking a walk the other day and I was thinking about the individualist bent of U.S. culture, and I was thinking specifically about libertarians and Ayn Rand types, and the more I thought about it, the more baffled I got.

I mean, it’s really just silly. It’s one thing if someone is literally living on a piece of land, growing their own local food, bartering fair prices for everything, and thus they think any kind of social program, or taxes, or whatever is taking from their own hard work. This could be a passable excuse for individualism.

But that’s not our modern society! The global capitalism that individualists themselves celebrate is one of the most socially integrating forces in world history! It is based on complex and minute connections and relationships between people all over the globe. The idea that almost any product, or any piece of infrastructure comes from the “sweat” of any one person’s “brow” is just ridiculous.

We are social beings. And advanced societies are incredibly intricate engines of social relationships. Ever piece of food, every road, every piece of media is not only produced by multiple people, but it is rooted in the historical legacy and accumulated productivity of millions. Right now, every single thing surrounding me was built and shaped by thousands of human hands and minds (and probably lives lost). Any philosophy that doesn’t take that into account–and that stay’s with simplistic Locke-style references to “fruits of a man’s labor”–is simply intellectually bankrupt.

Take the idea of privatization. The very idea of privatization is based on the individual human being, in that the creativity and passion and innovation of an individual person is much more powerful than groupthink and collectivism. Hmmmmm. Interesting. Because in practice privatization has nothing to do with anything private. It’s the turning over of one kind of collective property (belonging to the public or State) to a different kind of collective property that is shared less equally, but nonetheless collectively (among shareholders). What is going on here?! What is more collectivist and groupthink than the kinds of brand identification and bureaucratic structures that exist in corporate America? How foolish.

Seriously, next time I get in a discussion/argument with an individualist I think I’m just going to have to go off about how absolutely nonsensical this supposed bedrock American value actually is.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the power of individual human beings. I think we are incredible! But I will never forget the social context from which our individual beauty and power come from. Language itself is a fluid social construction that is maintained across generations ONLY because of human interaction and connection. An individual can write incredible, heartshaking poetry, can make me cry and yearn and scream…and that writer owes their words to the thousands of people who have nurtured her/him with conversation for years! And even more, the beauty and relevance of that poem to me is precisely because of our shared social context, language, and life experiences that gave us a similar artistic sensibility. When we start talking about land and labor and economies, the social argument becomes even more clear.

We are beautiful alone precisely insofar as we are beautiful together. Anyone who thinks they’ve found their uniqueness or their specialness only because of their distance from the “mediocrity of the crowd” has to be careful…not only do they owe that crowd their lives, but also their words.

We should be present with what has made us, and celebratory of what we in turn can make. But when we start separating ourselves from our roots…that’s when hubris and corruption form…and to me pure individualism is nothing but hubris and corruption.

Please, if any of you few who read this are individualists, comment so we can keep talking about this.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi