21 July 2007
I know people like this. They seem to be too afraid of an original thought that they just parrot the party line. This video reminds me of something I noticed around 1998-99, while I was finishing college. After spending 4 years (shut it, I was on the 5 year plan!) in classes where formal and informal debate was encouraged, I was shocked to see that professors started to shut down discussion because of a few belligerent students.
Folks, these are the Republicans of today. They do not engage in debate, but rather shout down anyone with a different idea with ignorant catch phrases, not thinking about what they're really saying.
One look at those bumper stickers at the beginning is all you need to know.
13 July 2007
10 July 2007
After scrambling my money around and purchasing a groovy new MacBook Pro, I was talking to my mother about my computer dyying. "Isn't that a new computer?" she asked. "Not really, it's 4 years old." "That sounds new to me." "You don't know a lot about computers, then." And on and on. But I got what she was really saying.
Things don't last anymore. TVs, computers, cellphones, coffee makers, major appliances, anything plastic, bras, shoes. Buying a quality item means that it will last for ten years instead of five, if you're lucky. This is planned obsolescence in action. Basically, manufacturers create goods that will last (or be supported) for a limited amount of time, after which the consumer is compelled to buy a new one. You never see TV repair shops around because the manufacturers don't want you to get your 15 year old set repaired. They want you to replace it with a newer model, which is supposedly better than your old one. The problem is that the newer model, which more technologically advanced, has more opportunities to malfunction, and warranties are only 1 year usually.
Not only is this frustrating for consumers like myself, who must have a home computer in order to fulfill my professional and academic responsibilities, but it is also bad for the environment. Think of all of the TVs, cellphones and dishwashers hanging out in landfills everywhere. Think of the toxicity running off into the water supply of the local town, which is usually an impoverished one without the political capital to fight against it.
I also think that, since Americans are raised to become good* consumers, we are conditioned to always want the newest and the best, even if our current product works fine. I have friends who buy new cellphones when a new one comes out, even though the one they have works just fine and still has a lot of the cool technological features. They just want to have the latest cellphone. Even I, in my purchase of my new laptop, was enamored with all the bells and whistles of the model I finally purchased. Although, it would have been nice if my old laptop could have held out for a couple more years.
Advertising plays the biggest part in this. I've often thought that advertisers are some of the smartest people in the world, if only because they know how to manipulate huge numbers of minds at once with just 30 second spots on TV. And they have done it, especially with new technology.
* Meaning, the more money spent the better, not necessarily responsible consumption.
06 July 2007
05 July 2007
But, after my previous post, I'd like to present this phrase in a different way. No, freedom isn't free. In order to be free, you have to accept that some people are going to take advantage of the system. For example, soldiers coming home from Iraq missing limbs or with serious mental injuries will be (ideally, but not always) qualified for disability benefits. This is because someone thought it would be a good idea to not be an asshole and to help out the people who protect our country and might just boost morale and lessen some of the burden a soldier had to face. It's just doing the right thing. But at some point, someone is going to take advantage of that system. Maybe several someones will take advantage of that system. Conservatives would like to claim, as they do when arguing against national healthcare, that because someone will be able to take advantage of the system that the system should not exist.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the system in place and have my taxes go toward helping a lot of truly needy people, in addition to a handful of leeches, than dismantle the whole system so that everybody suffers.
So, yeah, freedom really ISN'T free. But not in the way you think.
I actually used to believe the latter portion of that statement, that you could become anything if you just worked really hard and didn't get into trouble. Maybe in the not so distant past that was true, to an extent. You know, back when a high school education could still land you a job that payed a living wage with which you could afford a house and mortgage, a car, and support a few kids, maybe even send them to college. In modern times, this is simply not the case, and it's highly possible that it never was the case. "Bootstraps" are part of the American mythology. Successful people like to remind everyone that they got to where they are by working hard. I've no doubt they worked hard, but at who's expense? A white, middle class male born in this country automatically has more opportunity than a white, middle class female born at the same time, or a black middle class male. They've got a head start, yet nobody wants to acknowledge that because it destroys our precious national mythology.
To put this more simply, a child (male or female) born in a white middle class family has a built-in safety net that ensures they will do well in life. This is, in fact, my case, even as a woman, so I will explain how I have benefited from being born into a white middle class family. Because my family is well off, I had the opportunity to go to a good public school in a good neighborhood. I lived in a nice house, where I didn't have to worry about pests or unhealthy conditions or rampant crime that would detract from my education and development. I could concentrate on my homework after school, and even participate in ballet, because my parents were financially secure and didn't need me to put in any time at a job to help the family out. When it was time for college, and there was never any doubt that I would go to college, the money was there. I was able to spend my college years focused on my education (whether I did that or not is an entirely different post) rather than working three jobs to scrape tuition money together. Whenever I got sick, my parents' health insurance helped tremendously. Whenever I had car trouble, my parents could help me out. Even after college and into my professional life, I'm confident in the safety net of my family. Going through my divorce, I had the help of my family to avoid becoming homeless and broke. I think we can all imagine the course my life would have taken had I not been born into a white middle class family. I could have pulled on my bootstraps with all my might, but I still wouldn't be where I am today.
Most recently, I had my family's help with my bout of breast disease. I was unemployed at the time and in the middle of a bitter divorce. My then husband was in the process of withdrawing my health insurance, so when things starting to get diagnosed, I freaked out. My father, because he has the financial power to do so, employed me in his law firm to work from home so that I could avoid a gap in healthcare coverage. No, I didn't do a lot of work because I was dealing with a serious disease, but I made sure to make it up to him. And I was covered for the duration of the illness.
If I had not had that opportunity from my father, I would be paying off medical bills for the rest of my life. Or, worse yet, no doctor would have touched me because I wasn't covered, and that little lump would have developed into cancer. Even if I were to pay for my medical expenses out of pocket, I would never be covered for breast disease by any insurance company in the future. It's already scary that I'll never be able to have individual (non-employer) insurance if I decide to freelance, because who would cover a woman who was diagnosed with breast disease, a precursor to cancer, at 29, without charging outrageous premiums?
I can't wait to see SiCKO. I'm a Michale Moore fan, I'll admit it. He's hyperbolic at times, but that's what it takes in this country. Subtlety doesn't quite get through thick skulls. And the next time I hear some libertarian wanker whine about having to pay a few extra dollars a month so that the entire fucking country can have good healthcare*, I'm telling my story. I've worked hard my whole life, and I STILL got sick! It's not fair!
* Healthcare is a basic human right, and we need to start framing our arguments in this way rather than in an economic way. If the technology exists, everyone deserves quality and timely healthcare, just like everyone deserves food and water and freedom from torture. Oh, wait . . .
04 July 2007
This year, I'm feeling decidedly unpatriotic. There have been too many atrocities committed throughout the world in the name of freedom that it makes me nauseous. I love my country, but like an unruly child, I expect more of her. Shame.
As I enjoy my day off from work and some yummy summer food and fireworks, I leave you with this quote by Garth Ennis:
I like this country, Jesse. I like baseball and whiskey and Mom's apple pie-- not my mom's apple pie, but you know what I mean-- and the Stars and Stripes, and John Wayne, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.Yeah. I get it.
And I like the myth of the place. The myth of America: that simple, honest men, born of her great plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right.
Under harsh light it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same.
03 July 2007
The main thesis of Assault is that our democracy is in a steep decline because as a society, we have lost our ability to engage in a public discussion about the direction our country is taking. The main culprit is television, according to Gore, which I completely agree with. Television is a very passive medium from which to gain information about the world. It is also the main source of news information for Americans, with its ubiquity and ease of use. There are no special skills necessary for watching television; in fact, children are taught from birth how to “use” the television for person enrichment and entertainment. Gore states that, because watching television is a passive activity and one which the watcher cannot easily debate with (with an audience, at least) that our democracy is suffering. People are no longer engaging in political debate, and the days of town hall meetings and letters to the editor are considered quaint by those shaping policy. Gore considers the
As I stated before, I agree with this, but I also think that Gore could have gone a bit deeper. His main thesis that atrocious things are happening in
The result of this is that the large media outlets (television, radio, and newspapers) usually only focus on extreme opinions because they are sexier. We hear a lot about anti-choice groups and their shenanigans, but we rarely hear from folks who are more mainstream. We hear a lot about the anti-capitalist “freegans” but rarely hear from people trying to live a realistic but sustainable life. We are left with the impression that our neighbors hold extreme opinions because of the bumper stickers on their car.
An interesting phenomenon has been in the works with blogging, though. People are finding ways to become active again by connecting with others around the country and creating real movements. Disregarding my lack of enthusiasm for the nuclear family (anyone who knows me knows that I hate living so far away from my family and that I’m making progress to get back to them) I think that virtual relationships are our salvation for this political crisis. Gore mentions this only in passing in Assault, but I think as relationships evolve, we should pay more attention.UPDATE: Amanda has chosen Assault for the next Pandagon Book Club selection. You can also buy the book there.