Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Why not have dignity today, for ourselves? We don’t need to wait for a Gandhi or Bobby Seale for this. You wake up, regardless of your circumstances, and you have a pretty open book. You can turn on the teevee and have some people yell at you, and then get in the car and have people yell at you, and then feel bad all the time, and then come home and flop on the couch or in front of the computer, and eat fast food that you know is rotting you away, and then go to bed exhausted and depressed and repeat until death...or you could not do any of those things, because you’re going to choose personal dignity instead.


We have a remarkable ability to know exactly what things we’re doing are harmful to us...and then we keep doing those things, until we decide to stop.

For anyone who feels this Internet emptiness chewing at them, I would say, do a little test. Go outside and take a 15-minute walk — around the block, through the park, just a short walk. While you’re doing this, clear your mind of work and of home. Just look at things, birds and cars and trees and the clouds and buildings and dumpsters, and when you think of something internal just say “thinking” to yourself and go back to walking and breathing. Then return to your computer. Do the usual things you do on your computer, like check the news and your email and the blogs you read and whatever people post on Facebook and Twitter.

Do this second part, the computer-looking-at, for just 15 minutes. You can set one of those web timers...hang on, I have one in my bookmarks.

When this stopwatch beeps, honestly ask yourself how you feel. Compare this to how you felt at the end of your 15-minute walk. Ask yourself what, if anything, you learned during those 15 minutes of wasting time on the Internet. Did it help you in some way? Are you better off? This is a question often asked by political challengers: Are you better off than __ years ago? Well, are you better off than fifteen minutes ago? If not, don’t re-elect the Internet.


[T]he answer is almost certainly going to be No, you’re not better off. But you’re going to be agitated now, both restless and slothful, and you’re either going to feel something negative about somebody you don’t even know or you’re going to want something you don’t need, because you’ve been bombarded with advertising the whole time, even in the corner of your vision while reading your gmail.

The above comes from an interview with now-former Wonkette editor Ken Layne, who has a book out (Kindle-only, apparently) that sounds sort of interesting. But who said it, and in what context, is sort of beside the point.

Recently I wrote about giving up cable, and how it's helped me out mentally - I'm reading a lot more, and writing a lot more (which means I'm making more money, so while cable was an expense, the absence of cable has turned out to be an economic engine). Now I'm thinking about erasing all my bookmarked political sites, too.

I've lately come to the realization that a lot of things are out of ordinary people's control. You can apply for a thousand jobs and never get one, because in 2011 America, jobs are like meteorites - one either falls out of the sky and hits you, or it doesn't. You have no control over it - who you know doesn't help, volume of applications doesn't help, skill levels don't help. You're just out there making your way in the world, and maybe someone steps over and taps you on the shoulder and says, "Hey, I'll pay you to do [x thing]," but more likely than not, no one ever comes.

Politics is similar. We, the governed, have no control over what our leaders do. None. We can vote for them based on what they say when they want us to vote for them, but they're almost certain to be lying. This has been proven time and time again. So what recourse do we have left to us? Why, we have the Internet! We can tell each other how angry we are that our leaders keep lying, and we can even address our angry thoughts directly to the leaders in question, as though Barack Obama or Sarah Palin or Anthony Weiner or whoever is reading the comments on We can call each other names and explain in agonizingly minute detail how wrong everybody but us is, or we can clap each other on the back and talk about how smart we are and how dumb and wrong and destructive-to-America everyone else is. And none of it matters.

I used to read some right-wing sites (National Review Online most prominent among them) along with a bunch of putatively left-wing sites and blogs. I felt it was "important" to know what people who disagreed with me thought. Now I don't even care what people who agree with me think. Most of American politics, and all of American political commentary with one or two exceptions whose names I will not cite, is composed of people I don't want on my side of any issue. They're ugly (I mean this in the spiritual/philosophical sense, though Washington, DC is not exactly a hotbed of modeling-agency recruitment), narcissistic people who don't seem to have even fleetingly thought "But what if I'm wrong?" in decades. And that includes the ones in their twenties.

I just don't have time for it. Reading about politics is like studying meteorology. You can know all you want about weather patterns, but it's not going to help you stop it from raining on a day you'd rather it not rain. You can figure out what causes tornadoes, and maybe learn to predict them, but they're coming whether you know about it in advance or not.

I choose to be ignorant. I wish I didn't know who was President, and couldn't name any members of Congress just like I can't name a single baseball, basketball or football player. I for damn sure wish I didn't know the names and faces of political writers and TV talking heads, because they are to a man (and woman) a worthless, debased group of people who should be rounded up and shoved into the Fukushima reactor to prevent further leakage.

The more time I spend thinking about politics, the less time I can spend doing things that make me happy. Like reading stories, and writing them. Listening to music, and thinking about it and writing about it. (Buy Burning Ambulance - issue four just came out this week.) Watching movies (not documentaries, movies - preferably ones where things blow up and people get kicked in the face). Like just hanging out with my wife.

I don't need this shit anymore. I'm done.

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