THE INFORMATION CAGE

 

 

million brains jumped down my throat

my own voice asphyxiated

bile backed up

stopped shut

esophagus

 

the information age

welcome!

ain’t life grand?

headlines and hot takes

innumerable

grains of sand

forthcoming reconstituted truth

withholding unvarnished sooth

 

existence is greater now

evolution grows closer

how?

everything can be seen

nothing left to be heard

that being the case

how come

i’m deaf and dumb?

Advertisements

White. Male. Paranoid.

1_9rVKW-8TZlX2SPnCXRZJLg

source: gouache-design.ru

Powerful white men dominate most, if not all aspects of society in the United States. Is it just because they’re scared?

There’s this thing that I’ve been chewing on for a few years now that has finally come into much sharper relief. I’ve often wondered: how is it that powerful, rich white dudes have not only got such a firm grip on nearly everything but also have, by and large, managed to maintain that grip?

Now, much has been written about the specific machinations that the power wielded by white men has birthed and also how these systems continue to perpetuate their own dominance. But what I’m trying to get at is the underlying emotion or driving force behind the individual choice made by well-positioned white guys to cohere into a force that subjugates, divides and pilfers from the people who, in their own eyes, are underfoot and should stay there.

But of course someone will win and the goal is that it will ultimately be you.

My circle of friends, my partner and myself play a lot of board games. Some of us still go out and drink and pretty well at that. But a quieter night in with friends gathered around the kitchen table sharing snacks and drinks while playing tabletop adventures is more our speed and is especially the case for myself. One of the many things I enjoy about board games aside from the excitement of zero-consequence competition, is how, generally, people’s personalities manifest themselves through game playing.

 

Ferda

Ferdinand is generally uninterested in board games.

 

When we sit there at the beginning of the game, we’re all on more or less equal footing. Same number of cards, same amount of make-believe currency, same level of power. What happens next is usually the same sequence that plays out in many of the games we play. Some of us are little more aggressive, a little more keyed-in. Some of us don’t know quite what they are planning to do next and some of us are perhaps too trusting of the other players and just want to have a good time. (A funny notion that is, to be too trusting.) The quicker to trust among us are often used one by one as rungs while the aggressors make their way to the finish.

One of the weapons in the arsenal of the aggressors is to sow distrust among the other players. The easiest way to incite suspicion is to look at your nearest competitor and draw everyone’s attention to their success as to warn all in attendance that they should be stopped or everyone will lose. But of course someone will win and the goal is that it will ultimately be you.

An even more useful and efficient tactic is to turn everyone against everyone. If they’re too busy fighting each other how can they possibly push back against you? You do this by simply reminding another player, in the moment that they gain some temporary power, that they were wronged by some other player. The best strategy when playing from behind is always to gang up on the leader. But, if you’re the closest to winning you of course don’t want that thought to cross anyone’s mind at all. However, when one tastes power, no matter how fleeting, the natural course, the irrational yet tangentially justifiable course, is revenge. The poetry associated with vengeance is often too tantalizing to resist. Seeing someone who is essentially on the same level as you be punished or pushed back down is imminently cathartic.

Well, they don’t know it’s only temporary but you do.

Another characteristic that comes to the fore in certain players is one of trustworthiness. The players playing the most dishonest game are more prone to distrusting other players. The further into the game they go by thieving and lying the more they expect the same actions to be visited upon themselves. Maybe it’s one’s guilty conscience rearing its head? Perhaps not, but it does speak to a very human capacity to be on the lookout for karmic justice. This serves to only further influence future decision making. As soon as a player begins to look at other players in this light, that’s it. They are coming for you with knives out just as you did them so you better crush them first. It’s the pre-emptive strike. It’s the cop firing on someone that they thought had a gun. “I better shoot them first because if I were them, I would shoot me first.

 

stabby stab stab

Aerating Caesar.

 

It is entirely possible to win any number of games playing in this fashion. But there will come a time when the other players catch on and silently agree to come for you. At just such a juncture the best you can hope for is that you have enough silly little tokens or game pieces to withstand the assault. Or, you can call for a momentary truce with one of the horde in order to stave off destruction. Well, they don’t know it’s only temporary but you do.

If you are one the players trailing far behind your options become severely limited as the game wears on. You will find that you have to choose between continuing to play in earnest or playing your cards with minimal interest in hopes that the game, so far out of your hands now, will be over soon.

Many of them find the darkest impulses of humankind woven into their fabric and should be seen as suspect from the outset.

Particularly in the Americas when white men conquered and eradicated native peoples it was done with deceit and brutality. With campaigns finished, battles and wars won, systems were then put into place to keep tabs on the remnants of those they had dominated. They did this out of fear of retribution. They confined them to the reservations where they could keep an eye of them for fear that their named enemy was planning on returning the favor. In most cases this was simply not true, the people pushed into the margins wanted their homes and families and to live in peace, not to march into white settlements and put dwellings to the torch. We told ourselves these stories and lies after the fact in the form of John Ford movies to retroactively justify our own paranoid actions and the benefits derived therefrom as white people.

 

Strip me of my citizenship if you must, but I must confess that I hate John Wayne.

 

Not much digging is required to see how that same unjustified paranoia fueled the perpetuation of slavery and later Jim Crow which in several key ways persists into the present day. At every step of the way it became a requirement for the survival of the system to defend cruel behavior and if the white masses think that slave uprisings, race riots and Black Panther militias are going to go door to door killing, raping and looting then you can make almost any policy or practice appear not just necessary but preordained. Paranoia sustained and still sustains discriminatory actions because we visited the aforementioned atrocities first. When you are convinced that karma could be trying to come for you it’s not much of a leap of the imagination to re-frame a person of color advocating for change as an enemy agent who wants to exact Old Testament-style justice.

It is in the name of your own ego that those below are to remain below.

Systems are not completely without feeling. Feelings are what drive humans and humans create systems to organize their society in the ways that they think fit. As these systems are created in our own image they are susceptible to the flaws that come along with human feelings and can be easily exploited on the premise of those same feelings. Many of them find the darkest impulses of humankind woven into their fabric and should be seen as suspect from the outset.

If you are a poor man, surely you see yourself aligned with all poor people, do you not? No, of course you don’t. Unless you find yourself at the very bottom as a poor person of color the only comfort you can give yourself is that at least you’re not one of them. At least there is an “other” beneath you and heaven forbid they should ever catch up to you because then, without any direct change to your station in life, now you are at the bottom too. You didn’t fall. The bottom has simply come up to meet you. It is in the name of your own ego that those below are to remain below.

If you are a white woman, at least you’re white. A shortcut we hear all too often in public spheres wrongly gathers women as a single, monolithic entity, when things don’t actually play out like that. True, many of their life experiences as women overlap but as long as a white woman exists somewhere she will always be perceived as having more value than a woman of color. White women know they aren’t in power, but many of them choose to link arms with white men in order to uphold the patriarchy because the paranoia of what happens next if they don’t is too much to handle. In some examples it’s less paranoia and much more representative of a legitimate fear of marginalization.

…but it does highlight how they have chosen whiteness over being women.

All except one female Republican senator chose to support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh while no female Democratic senators did. This obviously illustrates not only the partisanship of the chamber and of the United States in general, but also that there are women who will continue to enable patriarchy, in particular white patriarchy, if it means that they can still play second fiddle in their own party’s endeavors. They want power within the structure and they rightly calculated that flouting the wishes of their own white male-dominated political party would hurt their standing within their own chosen hierarchy. Now, to be sure, most of these women were already on that track, second-guessing the Kavanaugh nomination was never in the cards for them but it does highlight how they have chosen whiteness over being women.

White men fear loss of status, especially in terms of their peer groups. They, rightly so, want to either maintain or advance. And it so happens that the best means of doing so are by keeping others behind. As long as no one is gaining on you, you win, comparatively speaking.

 

smoke filled room

“Now look here, see. I told that poor to move or be squashed flat by my Packard, see.”

 

The underlying fears white men associated with the prospect of the others catching up range from the mildly delusional to the outright insane. Political correctness is censorship! They’ll tax everyone into the poor house! Women will castrate men! Black people will enslave white people!

If it looks like there’s a chance that the mobs with get the wealth and power that has historically been withheld they will finally buy the torches and pitchforks they need in order to storm gated communities. If they finally get to vote as easily as they should they’ll elect black extremists. Boys and men will have to wear body cams just to prove that they didn’t commit acts of sexual violence.

The country is divided by them and in their service.

Is this paranoia linked to a collective guilty conscience? In the end, I think no. That would be giving powerful white men too much credit and blind the kind of hyper-cynical eye one needs in order to see what the whole thing is really about. I do think that influential white men wet the bed at the thought of falling from grace and no longer running the system as it was designed to and that their every daydream consists of the methods that would keep the system running smoothly or how to best reap the bounties that they have carved out for themselves.

The country is divided, as white men say. But they’re not telling the whole truth. The country is divided by them and in their service. They align themselves with whatever group they need at the time in order to preserve and protect what they’ve built for themselves.

They host rallies for everyone and say that the “other” is swarming the borders. They pull other men aside and say that women are coming for them. They call white women into their offices and say to work with them lest they be confused for someone working against them. They make the temporary alliances that they need whenever they feel threatened and then discard that alliance when its benefit to them is no longer required.

The lengths people will go to in defense of what they feel they’ve earned knows no bounds, especially when fear and paranoia enter the equation.

If paranoia and fear of retaliation are the lifeblood of the society we’ve been born into, maybe what’s required of us all is to retaliate with our money and with our votes. For my fellow white people, is in incumbent upon us to retaliate by giving our support to anyone but the very same powerful white men who hold all the cards. We cannot afford to sit back in resignation and hope that the game, so far out of our hands now, will be over soon.


Alex Biscarner is a freelance writer living in South Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

When Our Gods Hit the Ground

blow-up-Stalin-monument-prague

When our gods hit the ground

How hollow we will be

Knowing

Feeling

That we were always going to be

Let down

Pushed around

Cast aside so casually

We lifted them up

On altars neatly buffed

Came to rely

To be denied

Result of supplication

Rendered automation

Fury grows

Delivered blows

Against the font

Under the feet of icons

Marble bursts apart

Slides away

Down in a cascade

And our lords meet the floor

Stomped to smithereens

Whether we erect another totem

Remains to be seen

The Democratic Divide

There’s a trench running down the middle of America’s left wing and both sides are hurling grenades.


It’s hard to look at the divide between moderate Democrats and those to the left of them and not be reminded of the Republican party after the 2008 presidential election. Civil war broke out among the elephants and from that sprang the Tea Party and later on in Congress, the Freedom Caucus. We should be reminded that although they are outnumbered by their more centrist colleagues, the rightmost members of the party are numerous enough to stall the legislation of their own party even when it’s in power. For proof you only need to look at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s first attempt at repealing Obamacare.

I, uh, got nuthin’ to say about this. I just…I dunno.

Are Democrats headed down a similar path with their more progressive, liberal brethren? It may be to early to tell for certain, but the cracks are definitely there. The difference between the donkeys and the pachyderms is that the Democratic party is staring down a split that isn’t necessarily linked to matters of policy and platform. It’s about two sides who can’t let go of the truth: They both lost in 2016. Bernie losing in the primary was a tough pill to swallow for progressives and Hillary losing in the general was a tougher pill to swallow for most of the country.

Let’s first acknowledge some things about both of these highly-respectable career public servants.

Hillary was the first woman to ever win a major party’s nomination for president and not enough time is spent addressing that historic achievement. She got jobbed by the electoral process, however. In fact, her effort was behind only Obama’s two campaigns in total popular votes. The rampant sexism expressed by the media and her opponents coupled together with the non-story that was her e-mail server and the Benghazi masquerade hindered her, but she was the most qualified candidate since maybe Richard Nixon. I think a lot of Bernie’s people can accept these things about her without feeling like they have to take something away from Bernie.

There’s ice water in them veins.

Now, as for Bernie. He remains the most popular American politician and his run for the Democratic nomination was historic in its own right. His progressive bona fides are undeniable and he pushed the party’s platform leftward towards middle and lower-income families where it was supposed to have been already. The DNC had it in for him, however. But it’s not like I can completely blame them. Clinton was their gal and they’d been investing in her for years. Another thing that hampered Sanders was that the media gave Trump’s tweets more attention than Bernie’s policies which did every voter a disservice because Sanders might’ve been the only candidate with actual policy proposals. I think a lot of Hillary’s people can accept these things about him without feeling like that they have to take something away from Hillary.

If you go out to eat with Bernie I guarantee you’ll have no trouble asking for the check.

If we can agree on all of those points then what else could possibly be the problem? To hear it from moderate democrats, Bernie’s people are a bunch of Johnny-come-latelys and to hear it from progressives Hillary’s people are a bunch of elitists.

You know what? As a proudly unaffiliated voter, I can say that both claims are partly true. Moderates may sometimes be snobby but they know the game and they’re reliable. Progressives may be new and to the scene and hard to please but they bring in fresh ideas and young voters. You need this confluence to keep the party going.

Moderates have got to stop looking down on the progressive wing of the party. The Bernie Bro is a myth and just because people like Bernie doesn’t mean Hillary has to be a villain. Trying to pin the Alexandria shooting on Bernie as a cynical attempt to catapult him away from the party is just disgusting.

Yikes.

 

Bernie’s people need to stop spinning fantasy yarns and stay organized. And remember that dissent can occur within a party and still lead to healthy debate. Bernie himself knows this and has reached across the aisle to push legislation and hopefully will again in the future. If you think you can jettison a potential relationship with anyone who disagrees with you on just one issue then you need to get out of the way, that’s not how politics work.Although Bernie himself is quite partisan in drafting bills he knows that sometimes when allowing for some wiggle room you might find that more gets done than being an obstructionist and just saying “no” all the time. Look no further than the House of Representatives to see what years of that mindset achieves: Nothing.

The Democratic party and liberals in general need to be more engaged. Every election counts and Republicans always turn up so either donate or vote if you can be bothered to care. Liberals love a good march but they don’t play small ball at that well. Thirty-two of the country’s state houses and thirty-three governors are Republican and yet Hillary had the third-highest ever vote total. Maybe one can explain it away as regional demographics at work but we know that when voter turnout is low, Republicans win.

Blue: Democratic-controlled State Legislature, Red: Republican, Purple: Mix

 

Tom Perez, now the chair of the Democratic Party, appointed Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison as the Vice Chair. Ellison, who is black, is also the first Muslim ever to be elected to Congress and it should be shouted from the hilltops in perpetuity that he was one of the only people on the left to predict that Trump could win the presidency. They laughed in his face but he clearly had his finger on the pulse of America at the time when no one else did. His appointment to Vice Chair after losing to Perez in the vote for chair of the Democratic party was an important diplomatic maneuver as Perez, it should be mentioned, had a couple of different stints in Bill Clinton’s administration and was supported by moderates in the campaign for party chair. Whereas Ellison was backed by, maybe you already knew or guessed it, Bernie Sanders.

We are seeing the party leadership gelling and making the moves that they need to in order to survive and move forward, so perhaps it’s time for the people on the ground to suck it up and do the same.


Alex Biscarner is a freelance writer currently teaching English as a second language in the Czech Republic. Follow him on Twitter.

Compassion for the Trump Supporter

I mean to share a notion that liberals and progressives might find distasteful; sympathy for Trump supporters.

Before you recoil in disgust, mouth agape and brimming with righteous indignation, let me remind you as I’ve had to remind myself time and time again: I am friends with and related to Trump supporters. That said, in the immediate wake of the election I didn’t waste a moment’s time in taking to that black hole of bias called the internet and shouting into the void that people who voted for Trump were racists, xenophobes, and/or misogynists. The maelstrom in my soul prevented me from realizing that I had been blind to the realities that many of these people face.

It’s become a cliché to be an open-minded, creative kid from a small town who feels stymied and boxed-in by their drab surroundings and lack of diversity and big-city strangeness. But it is a thing and it’s palpable. People want to go where they feel like they fit in. But in doing so, one risks becoming further disassociated with where they came from. Those of us who leave home can struggle when they return for a visit. We usually leave Ma and Pa in the rear-view while we’re still becoming adults. As time peels away we emerge from our city-life chrysalis and find that little has changed in our point of origin. The sleepy towns can’t compare with the burgeoning cities and we wrongfully assume that our former neighbors are also stuck in the past, not realizing that many of them are uneasy about the future because it’s not all that clear to them.

And therein lies the problem. Many of us current city-dwellers simply don’t know what people back home are feeling or thinking. And when we woke up to find that we had a Mr. President and not a Mrs. President we felt the pang of betrayal from those we left behind. We were probably so utterly shattered because we didn’t see it coming and soon realized that we didn’t know the extent of our friends and family members’ plight. We chalk it up to their lack of growth without taking note that maybe we’ve changed and are also, quite simply, out of the loop.

An old power plant in my hometown of Marysville, Michigan was imploded in November 2015 and was perhaps the most exciting thing not related to high school sports that ever happened there.

If your moral outrage is about to bubble over, take a moment and breathe deeply. I too was at one time frothing at the mouth and thought that most, if not all, Trump supporters were very clearly racists because they voted him into office. I still think that a good portion of them were and are, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some racists voting for Hillary too. Some racists probably voted for Obama believe it or not. Propping up someone spouting the kind of language that Trump does is a mistake and there’s no doubt about it. However, many of his supporters weren’t supporting him for those reasons. They have a legitimate claim to feeling left out of the political process and whether he was honest or not, he spoke directly to them and won because of it. Allow yourself to acknowledge the nuanced consideration that some of his voters may have even detested his racial rhetoric but simply decided his economic and national security proposals were more important to them and their families. Accepting this as a possible explanation is crucial to repairing our country.

This particular example gets dredged up on a daily basis but the 2016 election for a lot of people smelled a bit too much like Germany in the 1930’s. Yet little time is spent on wondering just what was going on in the minds of those who cast their ballots for a man who ultimately tore Europe in half. We often talk of using history as a tool to help society avoid past pitfalls but we don’t always sufficiently identify what went wrong and where. When it comes to those events of yesteryear so much emphasis is placed on the military realities of the time, the geopolitical alliances, and other secondary concerns. However, the primary concern from back then should be the primary concern of today: The hearts and minds of the people.

Oh, the glory days. When our enemy was Wall Street and not each other. When we feared for the economy instead of our country’s future. Makes you kinda wistful, doesn’t it?

What do the people need? Do they feel safe? Do they feel financially secure? Are they happy? While many of us have moved on and are yukking it up in the cities, the Great Recession is still being felt back at home to varying degrees. The Midwest and the South haven’t seen the same gains since the downturn was at its worse in 2008. The people who inhabit the wide swaths of the country that were developed and cultivated for industrial use wake up each morning to scan the headlines and find out just which country their jobs are moving to or who was the latest victim of the opioid epidemic that, it should be noted, has hit rural areas the hardest.

Our collective post-election grief and dismay is owed largely to our ignorance of the grief and dismay felt by our small-town brothers and sisters.

If we would just can the moral high-ground stuff for a moment it would be to all our benefit. Also cutting it out with the name-calling and the down-the-nose way we look at our fellow citizens would be a start. Before anyone interjects with anything along the lines of a “Well-they-started-it” argument ought to check themselves before they finish that thought. If one is to live up to the icons of Progressivism, Liberalism, or Civil Rights, one must try and be above the fray themselves and be solutions-oriented, not obsessed with finger-pointing.

Trump and Flynn, the “Thelma and Louise” remake we never knew we wanted.

It’s not too late to transform that moral outrage into moral outreach. Trump supporters, those who aren’t billionaires anyway, are not going to be getting the help they need from this administration anytime soon. Whether it’s the AHCA or the incomprehensibly chaotic White House we now see, the needs of his core supporters are not front and center. Their lives remain mired in place, with their guy in office and accomplishing nothing.

Organize the people in your home town. Move back and start your own grassroots political movement. If you live in a different state now but are still a registered voter where you come from, research local politicians and choose wisely, blind straight-ticket voting isn’t an option. If you can’t vote for your favored candidates back home, donate to them instead. Have an in-person conversation with someone you disagree with and listen more than you speak. We should be reminded that although Trump supporters find themselves in the minority, there were enough of them to elect him. We will need to work with them if changes are to be made.

Should such sentiments prove to be unpalatable for you, it need only be said that the future of our country will depend on emphasizing reconciliation over persistent division and that can start with your next visit home.