Why that Moral Arc Idea Convinces

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That quote popularized by MLK Jr and originated in a different form by an abolitionist preacher in the 1800s has appeal for a lot of people, not just to our sense of optimism but also to our sense of reason and observation. We see injustice spark resistance, we see how some great injustices of the past were defeated, or at least greatly diminished by long struggle. It makes sense that given enough time, all injustices will fall, right?

With more recent history we can see resurgence, re-empowerment, and expansion of old injustices, which is a really useful reality check for those naturally inclined to optimism like (believe it or not) myself. And while outside of the worst environments for these prejudices (such as being trans in the UK) it can still be easy to see the resistance and feel optimistic they will overcome again, what would that mean long-term, if anything?

I’m not going to say that this process is perfect equilibrium, with history swinging between justice and injustice in equal measure. There does seem to be some staying power in some of the successes justice has achieved. People aren’t willing to lose the freedoms they earn with blood. But the arc idea is too simple to describe how the world works. A more accurate way to look at this fight, I think, is that there is an ecosystem of ideas in which selection plays a role.

Injustice species Misogyny rex rules the land unopposed, king of ideas. But wait, opposition appears. Justice species Feminism ceratops evolves defenses so effective that M rex dies out. But a subset of M rex mutated bigger teeth that can overcome F ceratops defenses, and do so well against them that F ceratops goes extinct. But lo, there were a few survivors of F ceratops and they evolve into the next progressive resistance.

In this model, injustices in their existing forms do go extinct – the phenomenon that makes the moral arc model seem convincing – but something always seems to evolve to replace them. What replaces them isn’t always equally bad, so it is still useful to keep fighting. But without the absolute destruction of these injustices, some form of them always survives and has a chance to grow again.

And now, from my reality-checked place of diminished optimism, I feel like even if every ounce of racism misogyny homophobia transphobia ableism antisemitism islamophobia colonialism etc. were magically extirpated from the minds of our species, some new injustice would arise de novo, due to the angling of the power hungry.

The arc of the natural universe is long, but it bends toward everything going extinct in ways ranging from miserable to horrible. Humans have time and again shown ourselves collectively unable to overcome our animal nature. As much as hippies like to separate man from animals to say industrialism is unnatural, it is not. Human decimation of the biosphere is the natural result of a species becoming too fucking successful – something we’ve seen many many times before in nature. The difference between freshly evolved plants causing a mass extinction and what we’re doing now are mostly cosmetic.

My only hope is in the unnatural. Not Elon Musk pipe dreams of technology saving us. More like Gene Roddenberry pipe dreams – the idea we can somehow overcome human nature to create a lasting utopia. And where I said the difference was mostly cosmetic? There’s a fundamental difference that might offer a sliver of hope. The tool of our decimation is a social construct, and we have the power to change those within the space of a single generation sometimes – if rarely. Whether that happens or not, praise for all of the warriors for justice, whatever your part of the struggle. Power on.

Texas Wisconsin Nebraska

I sign out of Outlook and it takes me to msn.com. I generally avoid news but some imp of the perverse makes me look at the headlines on the scroll there. And today, I was treated to the following:

Mass shooting in Texas. Mass shooting in Wisconsin. Orange prick John Boehner says mass shootings are national embarrassment. And Mass shooting in Nebraska.

I’m not looking into those articles, but short question for anyone with more fortitude: Did we literally just have three mass shootings in one day? Is this fucking nonsense for real?

Thank Fuck the Rich are Cowards

See Marcus’s post about Caesar for an example of what courage looks like.  Courage is a virtue, in the sense that “virtue” originally meant manly qualities, and while it can sometimes be good, it can also be decidedly evil.  From the time those American nazis entered the Capitol Building, all it would take to snuff out the already miserable vestiges of US democracy would be a rich person exercising evil courage.

I say a rich person rather than a politician because they’re the ones with all the levers.  If a Koch grew a pair and took a risk, they could grab Trump’s ear, tell him all the right things to say, grease the right palms, pull the right levers.  Trump has very little control over his messaging because he’s an impulsive dipshit with a paper-thin concept of reality.  But if the right rich person sidled up like the serpent and told him what he had to gain from following a script?  He could be far more dangerous than he is now.  He could actually be effective, instead of just being a half-assed stochastic terrorist.

But late capitalism is all about playing it safe.  Don’t take risks, even the bare minimum ones necessary to maintain control.  Just keep ratfucking everyone in sight and hide when you get spotted.  Cowardice.  They know they own Biden, that he’s the safety, the security, so while they’ll boost the Trumpism that lets them run riot over the natural resources and slaughter-me sheep of red states, they won’t help keep Trump himself in power.

Nothing good will come of today, but the worst case scenario will not either, and for that I’d like to thank our country’s rich for being more Antoinette than Machiavelli.  Stay down, cowards.

You Couldn’t Pay Me

Watching the debate?  Paying any attention whatsoever to the shitshow that is US politics, outside of the bare-ass minimum it takes to vote?  You couldn’t pay me to do it.  Not a fucking chance.  Not happening.  It’s all too upsetting and vile and fucked up.  But you know, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  Maybe somebody could pay me to do it.  Let me figure out how much…

I would have to quit work in order to make mental bandwidth for it, so you have to pay enough to cover my expenses for two years in case it takes a while to get rehired.  I make about $30,000 per year, so $60,000 is the price floor.  But exposing myself to this would make me less emotionally available to my family, so you gotta pick up the therapy bills for them.  Assuming two hours a night at $90 an hour from now through mid November (assuming this isn’t gonna go smooth), another $8,100.  And that’s just getting by, if I want compensation to make it feel like I came out ahead in the deal, how much will I charge to feel like it was worth it?

$100,000.  Anybody want me to cover the election, or even look upon the faces of our rock ’em sock ’em wannabe lich kings?  Full payment in advance, or you get nothing.  Thank you for your understanding.

Edit to Add:  I forgot about the cost of healthcare in the US – going out of pocket for health insurance.  $400 a month for that Obamacare, $9600 more.  Assuming some medical expenses actually will come up, even with insurance I’m currently paying a few thousand a year for dental and such.  Let’s bump this up to $125,000, just for incidentals I haven’t planned for.

Useful but Depressing Video

The flat earth premise is the set-up for a Dan Olson thesis about some dangerous political crank beliefs we’re all having to deal with at this horrid moment in history.  Watch it if you can handle it.  I personally have been avoiding the specifics of what fascist facebook dads believe as much as possible, so it was a useful look at the other side.

The thesis here is to not expect empathy or reason to reach fascists, or at least not easily.  Others have noted the antisemite-flat earth connection and extended some sympathy – the world is unjust and most of us are oppressed by the systems of power around us, you’re right to feel aggrieved, maybe think twice about what the source of that pain is.  Same reality check different approach: “It ain’t the jews or the libs you fucking nazi trash” (commit assault).  Mr. Olson here isn’t on either of those tracks.  He’s just trying to let people know what they’re really up against in this discourse.

So I needed this video as a check-in on what the jerks are up to these days, but it was also useful to compile a list of hashtags to block/blacklist on social media.  This list has redundant entries for platforms that allow spaces and those that do not, edit as required:

BLOCKING QANON:

#adrenochrome #deepstate #deep state #epstein #epsteinisland #epstein island #inittogether #in it together #pedoisland #pedo island #pedovore #pedovores #pedowood #pizzagate #qanon #savethechildren #save the children #spygate #stormer #thestorm #the storm #thestormishere #the storm is here #thesepeoplearesick #these people are sick #trusttheplan #trust the plan #wwg1 wga #wwg1wga

Blocking is a good idea because these asswipes will say agreeable things to stealth you into spreading their ideology, like the situation of the house of rumored child traffickers that got mobbed in Wisconsin.  Were the people in the house up to no good?  I don’t know, but the missing girls turned up somewhere else completely, the supposed photo evidence was being tweeted by somebody that included a nod to motherfucking pizzagate.

Staying woke ain’t as easy as it used to be.  Some BLM activists are sometimes – knowingly or not – reblogging literal nazi content from people who literally want them dead.  Look at the hashtags.  Eyes open.

Prestigious List of Fragile Assholes

Some celebs from different avenues of the arts and the intelligentsia just signed on a letter in Harper’s whining about cancel culture. Many people on the list you’ll be familiar with, as famous racists, transphobes, and general shitbirds. (List the crimes of the ones you know about in the comments!) Some will have you scratching your temples. Like where and why did they dig up Wynton Marsalis for this?

Among them I notice Salman Rushdie, had the threat of violence and state censorship involved in his rise to fame. I don’t know why he thought people saying we should stop promoting some poorly written overrated kids books because the author is a transphobe would be remotely equivalent, but sure, dude. And we already knew he had shit taste in friends.

I also love the whine about cancel culture costing people their livelihoods. I’m sorry, every last one of these fuckers should lose their prestige lifestyle for at least a year, so they can have half a clue of what it’s like for the rest of us. Even if that did happen, the fact it would be over in a year would offer them hope that I WILL NEVER FUCKING EXPERIENCE. Motherfuck the rich, from here to eternity.

Anyway, every last one of these people is, to some extent, a thoughtless hyper-privileged asshat. Yeah, you too, Noam Chomsky:

Elliot Ackerman
Saladin Ambar, Rutgers University
Martin Amis
Anne Applebaum
Marie Arana, author
Margaret Atwood
John Banville
Mia Bay, historian
Louis Begley, writer
Roger Berkowitz, Bard College
Paul Berman, writer
Sheri Berman, Barnard College
Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet
Neil Blair, agent
David W. Blight, Yale University
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author
David Bromwich
David Brooks, columnist
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Lea Carpenter
Noam Chomsky, MIT (emeritus)
Nicholas A. Christakis, Yale University
Roger Cohen, writer
Ambassador Frances D. Cook, ret.
Drucilla Cornell, Founder, uBuntu Project
Kamel Daoud
Meghan Daum, writer
Gerald Early, Washington University-St. Louis
Jeffrey Eugenides, writer
Dexter Filkins
Federico Finchelstein, The New School
Caitlin Flanagan
Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School
Kmele Foster
David Frum, journalist
Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University
Atul Gawande, Harvard University
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Kim Ghattas
Malcolm Gladwell
Michelle Goldberg, columnist
Rebecca Goldstein, writer
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
David Greenberg, Rutgers University
Linda Greenhouse
Rinne B. Groff, playwright
Sarah Haider, activist
Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern
Roya Hakakian, writer
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution
Jeet Heer, The Nation
Katie Herzog, podcast host
Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
Adam Hochschild, author
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author
Eva Hoffman, writer
Coleman Hughes, writer/Manhattan Institute
Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute
Michael Ignatieff
Zaid Jilani, journalist
Bill T. Jones, New York Live Arts
Wendy Kaminer, writer
Matthew Karp, Princeton University
Garry Kasparov, Renew Democracy Initiative
Daniel Kehlmann, writer
Randall Kennedy
Khaled Khalifa, writer
Parag Khanna, author
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Frances Kissling, Center for Health, Ethics, Social Policy
Enrique Krauze, historian
Anthony Kronman, Yale University
Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Mark Lilla, Columbia University
Susie Linfield, New York University
Damon Linker, writer
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
Steven Lukes, New York University
John R. MacArthur, publisher, writer
Susan Madrak, writer
Phoebe Maltz Bovy, writer
Greil Marcus
Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center
Kati Marton, author
Debra Maschek, scholar
Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago
John McWhorter, Columbia University
Uday Mehta, City University of New York
Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University
Yascha Mounk, Persuasion
Samuel Moyn, Yale University
Meera Nanda, writer and teacher
Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Olivia Nuzzi, New York Magazine
Mark Oppenheimer, Yale University
Dael Orlandersmith, writer/performer
George Packer
Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University (emerita)
Greg Pardlo, Rutgers University – Camden
Orlando Patterson, Harvard University
Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Katha Pollitt, writer
Claire Bond Potter, The New School
Taufiq Rahim, New America Foundation
Zia Haider Rahman, writer
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution/The Atlantic
Neil Roberts, political theorist
Melvin Rogers, Brown University
Kat Rosenfield, writer
Loretta J. Ross, Smith College
J.K. Rowling
Salman Rushdie, New York University
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment
Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University
Diana Senechal, teacher and writer
Jennifer Senior, columnist
Judith Shulevitz, writer
Jesse Singal, journalist
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Andrew Solomon, writer
Deborah Solomon, critic and biographer
Allison Stanger, Middlebury College
Paul Starr, American Prospect/Princeton University
Wendell Steavenson, writer
Gloria Steinem, writer and activist
Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School
Kian Tajbakhsh, Columbia University
Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University
Cynthia Tucker, University of South Alabama
Adaner Usmani, Harvard University
Chloe Valdary
Lucía Martínez Valdivia, Reed College
Helen Vendler, Harvard University
Judy B. Walzer
Michael Walzer
Eric K. Washington, historian
Caroline Weber, historian
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
Bari Weiss
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Garry Wills
Thomas Chatterton Williams, writer
Robert F. Worth, journalist and author
Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Matthew Yglesias
Emily Yoffe, journalist
Cathy Young, journalist
Fareed Zakaria

“Wie ein Hund” – Murder Imitates Art

Spoiler Warning: I reveal the end of a Franz Kafka story
Content Warning: Murder

In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, as Josef K is being murdered by a couple of state goons just doing their jobs, he says “Wie ein Hund” before his throat is cut. “Like a dog,” that’s how he’s dying. Not allowed human dignity. There’s a transcript of George Floyd’s last words over at Mano’s, I can’t testify to the veracity of it because I’m not going to watch somebody get murdered and scrutinize the poor audio. But it’s believable. No human dignity allowed, no mercy from the thugs in blue, the state goons just doing their job.

I’m really glad that a big swath of people around the world aren’t buying the simplistic narrative of “riots bad.” Thank you for giving me a glimmer of hope. To all the “tough on crime” politicians and pundits pushing curfews and lockdowns and state violence, eat shit.

If I was a mayor, I would make a deal with my people. I order every cop in the city to go eat donuts in a suburb for a day, in exchange for a request that the protest be as minimally destructive as possible. Then I’d pick up the tab for whatever happened after that. Something tells me when you don’t bring militarized bullies in blue to a protest, they might not end in as much property damage.

–Again, I don’t feel up to moderating comments on this topic, so they’re closed–

This Ain’t Your Race War, Jackoffs

For people new to the subject of White Supremacist Bullshit, there’s this concept that’s been around for a while: The Coming Race War, when all races must fight to the death for who has the right to rule. White elves vs. other shades of orcs and goblins for control of Middle Earff. Sometimes you’ll see it rendered as RaHoWa, for Racial Holy War. Anyhow, whenever racist oppression sparks a riot, the nazis and klan and sympathetic republicans mount up their trusty steeds to do battle. Like this asshole over here.

You know who burned that police station? Mostly white people. I’m sure you’ve seen the photographs. Who went around in masks and walkie-talkies causing surreptitious property damage? Your white pals in the five o, trying to manufacture excuses to kill innocent people. Let’s say that with the help of the nazi in chief, you manage to make this into a full blown war. It won’t be you brave kkknights against the sub-people. It’ll mostly be white people that are going to kill you.

It isn’t a race war, just because it started with racism. It’s four years of nazi rule and empowerment pushing good people to form a resistance. When the cops are involved, that resistance can’t stay passive because the cops won’t let it. You push, you get pushback. Nobody is going to like how this goes, as much as you racist death fetishists might get a few kicks along the way. It’s going to be bad for everybody. It already is.

I’m gonna do my best to stay out of it. Hopefully this will be my last post on the subject. It’s too depressing. And hopefully it blows over with a minimal amount of death. I don’t have a lot of hope left at this point.

—I’m not moderating comments on this so I’m not allowing comments.—

Is Coughing on People Assault?

Content Warning: post and comments have a lot of violence in ’em.

Says Johnson Catman over in Mano’s comments:

I would think that, at this time, if someone purposefully coughs or spits on you, that should be considered assault. Also, the one coughed or spat upon should be able to respond in self-defense.

I don’t have a strong opinion on that right now, even though I can easily imagine myself responding to these intentional coughing or spitting incidents by committing unequivocal assault. I have enough restraint that I never have assaulted a person, but I’ve felt the urge so strongly it burned. (I’ve wanted to pick up an old man and embed him in a plate glass display, back in my Walmart days.) I have heard in the past that spitting on somebody is already legally considered to be assault – coughing would surely not be covered by those laws, even if that’s true.

Any legal experts know the haps on this? I think our nation’s retail workers deserve to know. And deserve to wear brass knuckles, depending on the answer.