Déjà Vu Isn’t a Glitch, It’s the Matrix Working as Designed

So, in pursuit of posting something weekly, I started writing about a recently published study on Greenland’s glaciers. The main take-away is that over the last twenty years, they’ve doubled their rate of retreat, with a couple possible exceptions in the far north. This was expected. Greenhouse gas emissions have not meaningfully decreased, and so their concentration in the atmosphere has continued to rise. The mechanism by which the planet is heating has increased, so of course the rate of warming has increased. The temperature has increased, so of course the rate of ice melt has increased. That’s all there really is to say about it, and it’s not really news to anyone reading this blog.

It’s the same sort of thing that’s been written countless times by countless people all around the world, and still, nothing meaningful is being done. There’s widespread support around the world for doing something about it and there has been for ages, and still, nothing meaningful is being done.

The politicians that claim to be the ones who accept the seriousness of the problem very clearly do not, as they continue supporting new fossil fuel extraction, and they keep increasing the budget of the US military, one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It seems pretty clear, from their actions, that the goal of the rich and powerful is to stay the course, and use violence to suppress any effort to steer us away from the cliff. They seem to actively want to make the world as uninhabitable and chaotic as they can, while holding on to their wealth and power. Looking at their actions, it’s hard to see anything other than murderous intent.

Elon Musk is increasingly displaying his own white supremacist beliefs, for example, even supporting the message of the Illinois Nazis from the Blues Brothers, and it’s increasingly clear that he’s far from alone in that belief, within his class. Wherever there’s a change that would benefit most of humanity, you will find billionaires spending their obscene wealth to create opposition to it, and to demonize those supporting it. If you want a cease-fire in Palestine, that means you’re antisemitic, even if you’re Jewish. If you want to end fossil fuel use, that clearly means that you want to keep the world’s poor in their poverty by denying them coal-generated electricity, even though those at the bottom are the hardest-hit by the warming climate, and the least able to withstand those blows.

It’s probably pretty easy to develop bigoted views about those “beneath” you, when you’re part of a class that’s wholly detached from human concerns. Many of them have never worried about having enough to survive in their lives, and it’s far easier to blame those who do struggle, than to actually face the injustice built into their luxurious and destructive lifestyles.

So, in pursuit of posting every week, I started writing about the growing gap in wealth, power, and life experience between the rich, and everyone else, and how wealth and privilege twist the human mind in ways that virtually guarantee this outcome. It’s the same sort of thing that’s been written countless times, by countless people, and yet the problem keeps getting worse. Rents keep rising, along with other expenses, even though there’s plenty of everything to go around.

So, I started writing about organizing – a topic on which I’m still fairly ignorant, because its the one area where I can find at least a little hope. Interest in unions has risen dramatically in the last three years, and major strike actions have proven successful, as workers and bosses both realize the power that the workers have, when united.

This hasn’t resulted in real climate action, or real change to the political/economic system that has brought us to this point, but in a capitalist society, where money is power, the ability for workers to claw back even a little of the wealth that they generate with their labor is far from nothing. Less material desperation means more time and energy for living life, and for further collective action. These wins also act as a proof of concept – nonviolent collective action, aimed at the flow of money, can get real results.

The question is, how far does that go? How much are unions able to do to repair systemic harm? How much can we claw back before the powerful turn to violence to keep the rabble in their place? I don’t see a way around finding out, because as I’ve said many times, those at the top are clearly willing to let the world burn, if they get to rule the ashes. Hell, I think some of them want the world to burn, because they know that increased desperation at the bottom makes their exploitation much easier. If you look at the edges, like the effort to stop Atlanta’s “cop city”, you begin see the violence inherent in the system. Look past the borders, at the bottom of the global economic system, and you will find a level of violence that we in the rich nations of the world were taught had been left behind. You’ll discover that that violence has always been an integral part of the system. From there, it’s not exactly hard to believe that those whose billions stem from that violence would be willing to turn it on their subjects in wealthy nations, if that’s what it took to protect their power.

There’s no easy way out of this, from what I can tell. There’s no point at which those in power will say, “Ok, we’ve clearly messed up, let’s try actual democracy for a change”. They’re convinced that the only reason things are bad anywhere, is that they don’t have enough power. They’re a class of would-be dictators or oligarchs, who all think that they would be the kind of ruler the world needs, and any effort to empower those at the bottom just proves that the rabble need to be ruled.

I think that things like unions, strikes, and direct action are our best path forward, and I think that the world as a whole urgently needs these things to happen in rich and powerful nations. Time and time again, efforts at systemic change in the former colonies have been met with genocidal violence, backed by wealthy nations that know they’re safe from any retaliation. There’s no reason for the rulers of those nations to stop doing that, unless the people of those nations take action to make them stop. We are inside the fortress, in a manner of speaking, which means that we have the ability to change things here, without having to get past the walls and armaments. I sometimes wonder if that is why there’s so much effort to demonize immigrants, and to create and maintain societal segregation between groups. It keeps people from working together, and it keeps the citizenry of wealthy nations from understanding how the world works, and how their own problems are part of the same system that’s causing so much death and misery “over there”.

This isn’t a guaranteed victory. The people, united, can still fuck up. We can still perpetuate bigotry, and maintain injustice. There’s no guarantee of victory, but I think it’s fair to say, at this point, that without revolutionary change, there is a guarantee of defeat, for humanity as a whole.

In Praise of Universal Healthcare

So funny story – Two Sundays ago, I managed to cut my hand badly enough to need stitches, and to force me to not do any writing while the cut did its initial healing.

Since most of my readership is from the US, I thought it might be useful to give a snapshot of my experience in a universal system. There’s a flat fee of €100 for visiting Accident and Emergency, and the triage nurse, after bandaging my hand, told me to go home to sleep, and come back in the morning. It was when most of the city was celebrating Halloween, so my little cut was pretty low on the priority list. I went back in the morning, got the cut properly cleaned and stitched up, got a tetanus booster, and was sent on my way with instructions to return if I started showing signs of infection. Having grown up in the US, I checked whether I should brace for another bill for another trip to A&E, but I did not. That initial fee, plus the tiny amount I pay monthly for private insurance as an immigrant, covers everything to do with this injury. It’s a small disincentive – enough that I’m not gonna be cavalier about using such a service, but the arrangement is such that there’s no incentive for me to delay treatment for fear of the cost. The hundreds or thousands I’d have to pay for the same service in the US would, at minimum, have made me seriously consider cleaning and binding my wound myself, and trusting in my body’s ability to fight infection.

A week and a couple days out from the injury, and everything’s healing up fine. The stitches should finish dissolving before too long, and I’ll back to normal. It was a clean cut, and it didn’t hit any nerves or tendons, but if it had, I would have gotten that treatment based on what was needed, not on what I could afford. No surprise bills, no extra paperwork, no negotiating with a middle-man insurance company for the right to anesthetic, or three stitches instead of two, or whatever else they and the for-profit hospitals would think up to siphon off more of my money.

Universal healthcare systems are not perfect, and they absolutely do let people down, but the sheer scale of callousness, greed, and exploitation that’s built into the US healthcare system can scarcely be exaggerated. Supporters of that system like to rant about government bureaucracy, but nothing in any government system I’ve encountered comes close to the bureaucratic nightmare of navigating the labyrinth of arbitrary rules, barriers, costs, and paperwork that has been forced upon every patient in the United States. If you have a universal healthcare system, fight hard against any who would seek to take that away (looking at you, UK). If you don’t have such a system, do what you can to get one, and fight against the lies told to justify the cruel parasitism of for-profit healthcare.

So that’s why there wasn’t a post last week, and why I’m not sure there will be anything more substantial this week. I’ve got other work that I’m behind on, thanks to losing the use of a hand for a few days. Even so, I’m grateful to live somewhere that has a real healthcare system, and I’m actually feeling good about the progress of this novel. If you’re reading this, I hope life is treating you decently, despite the chaos and horror flooding that’s been flooding the airwaves.