Everyone I know is brokenhearted.

All the genuinely smart, talented, funny people I know seem to be miserable these days. You feel it on Twitter more than Facebook, because Facebook is where you go to do your performance art where you pretend to be a hip, urbane person with the most awesomest friends and the best relationships and the very best lunches ever. Facebook is surface; Twitter is subtext, and judging by what I’ve seen, the subtext is aching sadness.

I’m not immune to this. I don’t remember ever feeling this miserable and depressed in my life, this sense of futility that makes you wish you’d simply go numb and not care anymore. I think a lot about killing myself these days. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it and this isn’t a cry for help. But I wake up and think: fuck, more of this? Really? How much more? And is it really worth it?

In my case, much of it stems from my divorce and the collapse of the next relationship I had. But that’s not really the cause. I think that those relationships were bulwarks, charms against the dark I’ve felt growing in this world for a long time now. When I was in love, the world outside didn’t matter so much. But without it, there is nothing keeping the wolf from the door.

It didn’t used to be like this when I was a kid. I’m not getting nostalgic here, or pretending that my adolescence and my twenties were some kind of soft-focused Golden Age. Life sucked when I was young. I was unhappy then too. But there was always the sense that it was just a temporary thing, that if I stuck it out eventually the world was going to get better — become awesome, in fact.

But the reality is that the three generations who ended the 20th century, the Boomers, their Generation X children, and Generation Y, have architected a Western civilization that’s kind of a shit show. Being born in 1978, I fall at either the tail end of Gen X or the beginning of Gen Y, depending on how you look at it. I became an adolescent at the time Nirvana was ushering in a decade of “slacker” ideology, as the pundits liked to put it. But the reality is that I didn’t know a whole lot of actual slackers in the 1990s. I did know a lot of people who found themselves disillusioned with the materialism of the 1980s and what we saw as the failed rhetoric of the Sixties generation, who were all about peace and love right until the time they put on suits and ties and figured out how to divide up the world. I knew a lot of people who weren’t very interested in that path.

The joke, of course, is that every generation kills the thing they love. The hippies became yuppies; Gen X talked a lot about the revolution, and then went and got themselves some venture capital and started laying into place the oversaturated, paranoid world we live in now. A lot of them tried to tell themselves they were still punk as fuck, but it’s hard to morally reconcile the thing where you listen to Fugazi on the way to your job where you help find new ways to trick people into giving up their data to advertisers. Most people don’t even bother. They just compartmentalize.

And I’m not blaming them. The world came apart at the end of the 90s, when the World Trade Center did. My buddy Brent and I were talking about this one night last year — about how the end of the 90s looked like revolution. Everybody was talking about Naomi Klein and anti-consumerism and people in Seattle were rioting over the WTO. Hell, a major motion picture company put out Fight Club, which is about as unsubtle an attack on consumer corporate capitalism as you can get. We were poised on the brink of something. You could feel it.

And then the World Trade Center went down. And all of a sudden calling yourself an “anticapitalist terrorist” was no longer a cool posture to psych yourself up for protest. It became something you might go to jail for — or worse, to one of the Black Camps on some shithole island somewhere. Corporate capitalism became conflated somehow with patriotism. And the idea that the things you own end up defining you became quaint, as ridiculous spoken aloud as “tune in, turn on, drop out”. In fact, it became a positive: if you bought the right laptop, the right smartphone, the right backpack, exciting strangers would want to have sex with you!

It’s no wonder that Gen X began seeking the largely mythological stability of their forebearers; to stop fucking around and eating mushrooms at the Rage Against The Machine show, and to try and root yourself. Get a decent car — something you can pass off as utilitarian — and a solid career. Put your babies in Black Flag onesies, but make sure their stroller is more high tech than anything mankind ever took to the Moon, because that wolf is always at the door. And buy yourself a house, because property is always valuable. Even if you don’t have the credit, because there’s this thing called a “subprime mortgage” you can get now!

But the world changed again. And kept changing. So now you’ve got this degree that’s worth fuck-all, a house that’s worth more as scrap lumber than as a substantial investment, and you’re either going to lose your job or have to do the work of two people, because there’s a recession on. Except they keep saying the recession ended, so why are you still working twice as hard for the same amount of money?

We started two wars, only one of them even marginally justifiable, and thousands and thousands of people died. Some of them were Americans, most of them weren’t. The world hated us again. It’s psychically oppressive to realize you’re the bad guy.

Of course, for a lot of the world, America had always been the bad guy…but we didn’t really know that before, because we didn’t have the Internet in our pocket, to be pulled out at every lunch break and before the meal came and when the episode of Scrubs on TV dragged a little, and before bed. We were encouraged to immerse ourselves in the endless flow of information, to become better informed, because knowing more about the world made us better people.

And maybe it did, but it also made us haunted people.

Yesterday morning, when I woke up, I clicked on a video in my Twitter feed that showed mutilated children being dragged from the streets of Gaza. And I started sobbing — just sobbing, sitting there in my bed with the covers around my waist, saying “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” over and over to the empty room. Dead children, torn to bits. And then it was time for…what? Get up, eat my cereal, go about my day? Every day?

So you’re haunted, and you’re outraged, and you go on Twitter and you go on Facebook and you change your avatar or your profile picture to a slogan somebody thoughtfully made for you, so that you can show the world that you’re watching, that you care, that it matters. But if you’re at all observant, you begin to realize after a while that it doesn’t matter; that your opinion matters for very little in the world. You voted for Obama, because Obama was about hope and change; except he seems to be mostly about hope and change for rich people, and not about hope at all for the people who are killed by American drones or who are locked away without trial in American internment camps or who are prosecuted because they stand up and tell the truth about their employers. There does seem to be a lot of hope and change in Fort Meade and Langley, though, where the NSA and CIA are given more and more leeway to spy on everyone in the world, including American citizens, not for what they’ve done but what they might do.

And the rest of the world? They keep making more dead children. They slaughter each other in the streets of Baghdad and Libya and Gaza and Tel Aviv; they slaughter each other in the hills of Syria; and, increasingly, they slaughter each other in American schools and movie theaters and college campuses.

And when you speak up about that — when you write to your Congressperson to say that you believe in, say, stricter control on the purchase of assault weapons, or limiting the rights of corporations to do astonishing environmental damage, or not sending billions of dollars to the kind of people who think it’s funny to launch missiles filled with flechette rounds into the middle of schools where children huddle together — you’re told that, no, you’re the fascist: that people have the right to defend themselves and make money, and that those rights trump your right to not be killed by some fucking lunatic when you’re waiting in line at Chipotle to grab a chicken burrito, and your right to not be able to light your tapwater on fire with a Zippo because of the chemicals in it, or not to end up in a grainy YouTube video while some demented religious fanatic hacks your head off with a rusty bayonet because your country — not you, but who’s counting — is the Great Satan.

And the music sucks. Dear God, the music sucks. Witless, vapid bullshit that makes the worst airheaded wannabe profundities of the grunge era look like the collected works of Thomas Locke. Half the songs on the radio aren’t anything more than a looped 808 beat and some dude grunting and occasionally talking about how he likes to fuck bitches in the ass. The other half are grown-ass adults singing about their stunted, adolescent romantic ideals and playing a goddamn washtub while dressed like extras from The Waltons.

The music sucks. The movies suck — I mean, they didn’t suck the first time they came out, in the 1980s, but the remakes and gritty reboots and decades-past-their-sell-by-date sequels suck. Indiana Jones is awesome, but nobody needs to see a geriatric Harrison Ford, lured out of retirement by the promise of building another mansion onto his mansion, running around with fucking Shia LeBeouf in the jungle. And besides, we’re all media experts now; we can spot the merchandising nods from the trailer all the way to the final credits. There’s no magic left. It’s just another company figuring out a way to suck the very last molecules of profit out of the things we cherish, because that’s what corporations do.

Everything is branded. Even people. People are “personal brands”, despite the fact that, by and large, you can’t figure out what most of them are actually even good for. They just exist to be snarky and post selfies and demand that you buy something, anything, with their picture on it.

You actually know who Kim Kardashian is. In an ideal world, you’d be as unaware of her existence as you are of the names of the Chinese kids who made the futurephone or featherweight laptop you’re almost certainly reading this on. In an ideal world, Kim Kardashian would have spent her life getting sport-fucked anonymously by hip-hop stars in some Bel Air mansion, ran a salon, and either died of a coke overdose or Botox poisoning. There is no reason that her face and her life and her tits and her deathless thoughts needed to be foisted upon the world outside of the 90210 ZIP code. Except that somebody figured out that you could make money off showing people the car accident in slow motion, that people would watch that. Sure they will. People love to watch stupid people do stupid things. It makes them feel less stupid.

And the Internet.

We built this thing — I include myself in that because I started doing HTML in 1994 and was part of the generation who took to the new medium like water and have made the majority of our adult lives creating it, to a greater or lesser degree — because we believed it would make things better for everyone. We believed it would give voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless, bring us all together, help us to understand and empathize and share with one another. We believed it could tear down the walls.

And in a lot of ways it has. But in just as many ways, it has driven us all insane. There’s an old story — I have no idea if it’s true — about monkeys who had the pleasure centers of their brains wired up to a button. Push it, Mr. Monkey, and you have an orgasm. And the monkeys did. They pushed the button and they pushed the button, until they forgot about eating and they forgot about drinking and sleeping and simply fell down and died.

What do you do when you first wake up? What do you do as soon as you get into work? After work? Before bed? Hell, some of us wake up in the night and check our feeds, terrified that we’ve missed out on something.

We do it because we are given that reward, that stimulus that tells us oooh, a new shiny! It’s the fourteenth Guardians Of The Galaxy trailer, with 200% more Rocket Raccoon! Some fucking null node in Portland made a portrait of every single character from Adventure Time out of bacon and Legos! And, maybe most poisonous, maybe most soul-crushing: somebody said something I don’t like that makes me feel frightened and threatened! It’s time to put on my superhero costume and forward unto battle!

Except it doesn’t matter. Because you’re not really changing anybody’s mind. How often does that little skirmish end with anybody changing their mind at all, even a little bit? Or does it just end with one of you invariably either blocking the other or saying something like “You know what, I’m going to stop now, because this is getting out of hand.”

Getting out of hand?

Everything they told you about how to live in the world when you were a kid is a lie. Education doesn’t matter, not even on paper. Being ethical doesn’t matter. Being a good person doesn’t matter. What matters now is that you’re endlessly capable of the hustle, of bringing in that long green, of being entertaining to enough people that somebody will want to give you money or fuck you or fund your startup. We’re all sharks now; if we stop swimming for just a little too long, we die. We lose followers. We’re lame. We’re not worth funding, or fucking. Because all that matters is the endless churn, the endless parade, the endless cycle of buying and trying to sell and being bought and sold by people who tell you that they’re your friends, man, not like those others. Microsoft is evil and Google is not evil, except when they are, but that’s not really important, and if you decide that maybe you’re tired of being reduced to nothing more than a potential lead for a sales pitch, like something out of a fucking David Mamet play, then you’re a hater and irrelevant and a Luddite. And besides, what would you do with yourself if you weren’t checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush Saga or watching some teenage dumbass smash his genitals on the side of a pool on YouTube? What the fuck would you even do, bro?

The comedian Bill Hicks used to do a bit where he invited the advertisers and marketers in his audience to kill themselves. He imagined them turning it into an ad campaign: “Oh, the righteous indignation dollar, that’s a good dollar, Bill’s smart to do that.” He laid out the futility of trying to escape: “I’m just caught in a fucking web,” he’d say.

And that’s where we are. You, me, we’re trapped, between being nothing more than consumers, every aspect of our lives quantified and turned into demographic data, or being fucking Amish cavemen drifting into increasing irrelevancy. Because it really does feel like there’s no middle ground anymore, doesn’t it? There’s no way to stay an active, informed citizen of the world without some motherfucker figuring out a way to squirm into your life to try and get a dollar out of you. Only fools expect something for free, and only bigger fools believe they’re anything other than a consumable or a consumer.

We didn’t get the William Gibson future where you can live like a stainless steel rat in the walls between the corporate enclaves, tearing at the system from within with your anarchy and your superior knowledge of Unix command lines. Now it’s just pissed off teenagers who blame you because their lives are going to suck a cock and billionaire thugs trying to sell you headphones and handbags, all to a soundtrack of some waterhead muttering “Bubble butt, bubble bubble bubble butt” over and over while a shite beat thumps in the background.

I know a lot of people who privately long for an apocalypse of some kind, a breakdown of the ancient Western code, because then they’d either be dead or free. How fucking horrifying is that?

But nobody pulls that trigger, because now we’ve all seen what apocalypses look like. We saw Manhattan in 2001 and New Orleans in 2005 and Thailand in 2004 and the Middle East pretty much any given day. Nobody wants to hate, because we’re pummeled with hate every day, by people who are too fucking stupid to understand that the world has passed them by as much as it’s passed by the dude in the Soundgarden t-shirt who still drives around singing along to “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” on his way to his dead-end job. The best lack all conviction, and the people who are full of passionate intensity? Fuck them. We’re all sick of their shit anyway.

And that’s where we are, and is it any goddamn wonder at all that the most profitable drugs sold in America for like a decade running have been antipsychotics? The world seems psychotic.

I feel like I need to figure this out, like figuring all of this out and finding new ways to live has become the most important thing I could possibly do, not just for myself and the people I love but for the entire human race. I don’t mean me alone — I’m far too self-loathing to have a messiah complex — but I feel like, for me, this is the best use of my time. Because the world is making me crazy and sad and wanting to just put a gun in my mouth, and it’s doing the same thing to a lot of people who shouldn’t have to feel this way.

I don’t believe anymore that the answer lies in more or better tech, or even awareness. I think the only thing that can save us is us. I think we need to find ways to tribe up again, to find each other and put our arms around each other and make that charm against the dark. I don’t mean in any hateful or exclusionary way, of course. But I think like minds need to pull together and pool our resources and rage against the dying of the light. And I do think rage is a component that’s necessary here: a final fundamental fed-up-ness with the bullshit and an unwillingness to give any more ground to the things that are doing us in. To stop being reasonable. To stop being well-behaved. Not to hate those who are hurting us with their greed and psychopathic self-interest, but to simply stop letting them do it. The best way to defeat an enemy is not to destroy them, but to make them irrelevant.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know some truth that I can reveal to everyone. All I can do is hurt, and try to stop hurting, and try to help other people stop hurting. Maybe that’s all any of us can do. But isn’t that something worth devoting yourself to, more than building another retarded app that just puts more nonsense and bullshit into the world? Just finding people to love, and healing each other? I think it is.

Until I know more, I’ll just keep holding on. I won’t put the gun in my mouth. Because all of this sadness is worth it if there’s still hope. And I want to still have hope so badly. I still want to believe, in myself, and in you.

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  1. Pingback: Empire of Illusion
  2. These are the best words to describe things as I’ve been feeling them, and you’re right. The good thing is I’ve been finding answers, and you’re gonna like this. Awareness is a key to noting the problem (it’s not useful). Technology is a key component for what is about to come. We need to save ourselves by saving each one of us first. Because what the world needs today is for us to stop (we’re a parasite right now) and think where we went wrong. Once we do this we become aware of the specific solutions we’ll need for specific problems (in order of priorities). When we get to see the problems globally we’ll understand that a global synching is required for us to reset the complete human race.

    We are eating what we don’t need to. We are killing what we don’t need to. We are using what we don’t need to. We’re doing things in excess all for a reason: unleashed ego. Once we leash it, and use it as a surviving tool instead of a show up tool, we’ll go back to our times in harmony with the planet and with our own selves.

    I’m applying for a program in Georgetown, presenting a project that might change things. “If you want to bring down a system all you have to do is make it look obsolete”. Mankind right now is obsolete, our way of thinking and living. We have to evolve, we have to do things differently, and we will discover how. For now just be an example of what you believe in, stand for your beliefs and it doesn’t matter if anyone is watching, since you’re the main spectator. Make yourself proud, and enjoy the feel; it will open oh so many doors until you finally find the one you were looking for.

  3. I registered so I could comment. I don’t tweet or text or facebook and I only answer the phone when I’m in the mood. Friends adapt, if they complain. I also make it clear that I don’t share my time with their gadgets. If they start getting twitchy and aching to touch them, I know its time to leave. I thank you for writing this. I live in the heart of hipster Seattle and what keeps me sane is the library, parks, my bike, and lately a lot of soccer. Life is lonely, especially as disconnected from pseudo social media as I choose to be. Sometimes I get lucky and find the thoughts of others out there online, moments of reflection that make me feel like I’m not the only one. Your essay was a rare moment of discovering something REAL and it made my day.

  4. Maybe what you in fact need is a) some perspective (on almost all of the socio-political positions you have because none of them seems much evolved beyond some cloistered/privileged American geek who thinks it is sophisticated to blame his own country when a demented nut saws the head of a reporter) b) some maturity. Sorry the world is not the perfect place you thought it was (we all get to figure that out and digest it and figure out what if anything we want to do with it) and all the things that have been provided for you haven’t been provided perfectly or perfectly altruistically or haven’t in the process hurt other people (I’m betting you benefited from the products the corporations that did ‘great environmental damage’ while you wrote your diatribe and while you are reading my response.

    Maybe in fact the people really think we are The Great Satan is because they read whining puling posts like these from over-educated over-privileged American kids who live in the safest, freest highest-standard living country in the world and somehow seem to think that crying over dying children in countries nothing like America while bitching about being between jobs or wives makes any sense at all.

  5. Long response, simply condensed to: you really ought to check your facts before you run your mouth off at me, you condescending, ignorant sack of shit. Go fuck yourself.

  6. Hi – thank you for your thoughts. I’m stuck on the bit where you say that “the rest of the world is producing more dying children.” I work in international public health and the child mortality rate in most of the world’s developing countries (that’s low- and middle-income countries) has been reduced by two-thirds since 1990 as a result of the Millennium Development Goals. The majority of child deaths are from preventable diseases (malaria, diarrhoea, and improper nourishment and vaccination), not violent crimes. I share this information not to be a stickler (I understand this was a personal, opinion piece) but to spread the hope, optimism, and courage necessary for the world to continue pursuing valuable interventions. Cheers.

  7. Wait till you hit 40(something)! When the midlife crisis really hits, you gain the perspective to see how every bad decision in your life led to the next one and how the stuff you never fixed (stemming from childhood or other) influenced everything… then the state of the world becomes fairly unimportant because you realize all you can do really (or at least the first thing is to) is fix yourself.

    But I don’t mean to piss on your idealism (I’m early Gen X and have always been a cynic, and never one of the ‘cool kids’ you speak of). I would suggest that you need to read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”.

    Viktor Frankel

    And please, use Ghost and not WordPress. WordPress is pure unadulterated evil. If you’re in IT, you ought to understand this 🙂 You want to find meaning? Listen to “The Impossible Dream” too many times and pick a battle you’ll never win. Mine is getting every last WordPress blog off the Internet… Mambo died, so can WordPress. (I am tired of fixing people’s WordPress shite)

  8. Funny admin, that was my exact point to you. If you were looking for pats on the back and handkerchiefs you should have kept the thoughts to yourself. I guess no part of your insights into life involved looking inward?

  9. The funniest part is that you actually had to login here to tell me what a dick I am. And then come back to see that I’d responded, and responded again. I mean, I don’t come to your job and drag you down off the stripper pole and tell you how to shake your moneymaker, but you feel compelled to share with me? Adorable.

  10. Admin you have just invalidated your entire post. Clearly I did not tell you what a ‘dick’ you are, I disagreed with your post and premise. Yes I felt compelled to share with you. Clearly you were just looking for backpats and handshakes and high-fives. So how would that validate any of your apparent search for answers? I might have given you some or some insight or even a chance to question your premises. Yet you decided to simply snarl at not being validated. When you can answer why you might answer most of your other ‘questions’.

  11. What I wasn’t looking for was for someone I don’t know to come on my blog and make snarky comments that make some mightily erroneous assumptions about me, who I am, that I’m entitled or privileged, and that I need to learn maturity. It’s fine you believe that. But that’s not constructive and, frankly, I don’t give a shit what you think about me.

  12. BTW: I didn’t come to your job and drag you down off the stripperpole (interesting metaphor); YOU decided to post your thoughts for the world to see and provided a forum for the world to share their feelings and feedback. If this is your ‘moneymaker’ not really sure what to advise you to do, however I can tell you if you decide to share your opinions with the world in a public forum you should be prepared for dissent, rebuttals, disagreement and even outright condemnation in addition to the praise you clearly are desperately seeking. I’ll leave this ‘forum’ now since it is anything but, best of luck to you.

  13. mkhyc10, for real, go fuck dogs. You’re a jihadist coming onto a webpage that is calling for peace, while you scream for more bloody fucking murder. You are, in every sense that this could be taken, a waste of time.

  14. It’s funny that you’d flippantly dismiss someone else’s criticism with “go check your facts”, since it’s obvious that you did very little fact checking for this article.

    “There’s an old story — I have no idea if it’s true — about monkeys who had the pleasure centers of their brains wired up to a button.” Actually the experiment you’re thinking of was done with rats: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-j-linden/compass-pleasure_b_890342.html

    “[I]s it any goddamn wonder at all that the most profitable drugs sold in America for like a decade running have been antipsychotics?” Lipitor, a cholesterol medication, has historically been the most profitable drug in America (and the world!) Antipsychotics don’t even rate a mention in the top 25 drugs from last year: http://www.genengnews.com/insight-and-intelligenceand153/the-top-25-best-selling-drugs-of-2013/77900053/

    Combine that with your weirdly creepy comments about women and sex (calling someone a stripper for disagreeing with you, WTF?) and I am honestly baffled as to how this article is receiving such widespread praise on social media.

  15. Mkhyc10: I believe part of the problem is that in your first post, you are not simply providing constructive criticism or attempting to refute his argument. You are actually attacking the author’s character and the character of anyone who agrees with him. While the author could have kept his cool and, you know, provided a counter-argument to your post rather than make himself look less insightful, your argument fails to actually provide any refutation and simply serves to inflame passions, otherwise known as trolling.

  16. You’re right, I didn’t do a lot of fact checking for this post on my personal blog that I only expected my few hundred Twitter followers and Facebook friends to read. Funny thing, though: according to this article, one of the two top-selling drugs of last year was Abilify, an anti-psychotic. (The other was an antacid.) I’m not particularly inclined to spend the next hour tracking down sources for the “decade” tag, but I’m pretty sure I read that in a couple of different places.

    You’re right about the stripper comment, that was unjustified. (It’s actually a variation on something my friend Dirk Vermin used to say on stage when people would heckle his band: “I don’t come to your job and take the dick out of your mouth and tell you how to suck it, don’t tell me how to fucking rock and roll.” Which I suspect you’d also find offensive in pretty much every direction it might go.) But it’s also unjustified to come on my personal blog — again, that’s what this is, not a magazine, and I have no control over who shared my post — and tell me I need to grow up and condescend to me. It’s a shitty thing to do. So I reacted, and I reacted in a stupid way.

    You don’t like what I have to say, don’t read it. You don’t like people sharing my late-night musings on your social networks, tell them to stop it. Tell them I’m a misogynist, if it makes you feel better. It really has nothing to do with me.

  17. Man if these are millenialls the world is doomed. Sorry you are forced to check your feeds in the am by ‘the man’. Maybe Bono will hold a concert for you. BTW nothing about this blog called for peace, and I didn’t scream for murder. And ‘Admin’ didn’t work in the internet ‘to change the world’ he did it to make money. Ya know the money to buy stuff? But I guess that was all part of the programming by the evil corps. Hey, idea: use your time to go save the dying children of the world. Seriously. But nah, that isn’t your job. It is just complaining about it. I’ll let you get back to telling each other how bad you have it here in America.

  18. Okay, apparently people are not understanding the concept: I didn’t write a fucking article. I wrote a post on my personal blog about how I felt. Which is where you’re reading it. This isn’t the goddamn Huffington Post. So when you come onto my blog and register on it, I expect any comments you leave to be at least as respectful as you’d be if you were face to face with me. If not, you’re not going to be treated with any respect in return.

    I’m sorry somebody you know linked to my piece and you felt the need to tell me I’m immature, or a misogynist or whatever else. The truth is that your opinion matters to me not at all. The only reason I’m engaging is that you decided to come onto, again, my personal blog and tell me what you think of me, in impolite terms.

    So let me put it this way: if you disagree with me, fine. If you’d like to share why, I’ll listen. I’ll engage. I’ll try to understand where you’re coming from and try to find common ground. But show up at the virtual equivalent of my front door with a chip on your shoulder, and I’ll come correct. If you don’t like that, put it on your Tough Shit list and give it to the chaplain. This is my house.

  19. To Admin: I admit I did not realize this was some private blog/feed that I jumped into, and yes I got here by a link. So clearly I thought it was a public diatribe that I had a right to comment on. If I seem(ed) unsympathetic or harsh that was not my intent; however I do have little truck with living here in the US complaining about how hard life is, or how bad corporations are, or how we are ‘forced’ to want things or check facebook each day. You can choose not to. I don’t. You can choose to affect or be a part of change in the world where things really DO suck, the fact that your single voice or efforts don’t make immediate change doesn’t mean they don’t affect change and more the very act of doing those things affect YOUR life and how you feel about the world and yourself. If you don’t want to be part of a consumer culture then reject it, that is in your power. You can’t do so AND be pissed that some people who judge you by your clothes/apartment/money don’t judge you well thought since they clearly chose to be part of that culture. It is like women who reject the ‘pressure’ to be beautiful; clearly they can choose to not wear great clothes or make-up or work out and clearly there will be less men who choose to be with them. They can only control their choice and notice that they too still have expectations about what those men look like. My point is most of what you bemoan about western society are things you can choose to participate in or not. We have wonderful tools available to us in a wonderful free and safe society (notice I didn’t claim it is 100% or perfectly free or safe or wonderful), we can talk in real time with someone we never met in Sri Lanka a moment ago, we can travel around the planet in a day, we live 3x longer than just a century ago. You can look at those opportunities and be amazed and do something amazing, or you can look around and see an imperfect world that will always be imperfect and spend your living days in angst.

  20. Okay, that’s better. So I’ll tell you: I’ve spent most of my adult life as a writer and web developer. In both of those pursuits, I’ve tried to do my best to either make people aware of the inequalities in our society, or to try and rectify them. All of the projects I’ve done on my own or spearheaded as a developer have been in that vein. None of them were to get rich. (The other work was, as you point out, shit I did for money, for employers. I’m not ashamed of that at all, but I do wish I’d had more time for the projects I came up with myself.)

    I lived in rural Turkey when I was a kid, which is barely the developed world if it is at all, and I’ve traveled extensively. Last year I went to East Africa to research a book I’m writing about the ways people there live. I spent a day hiking around Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi and one of the largest on the continent. So while I’m not immersed daily in that world outside my safe little existence, I’m more viscerally aware of it than a lot of Americans.

    You’re right: a lot of my sadness comes from my own choices. I choose not to look away from the horror that comes at me via media. I could turn everything off and just go live out here in rural Washington on a farm and be perfectly content. My point is that there are trade-offs there, too, and I don’t know how to choose in a way I can live with.

    I also know how amazing the world is. I’m a technologist and futurist. I marvel at the technology we invent every day. But I also see the way that it’s being co-opted by people to simply enslave where it ought to make free. It’s very hard to simply reject consumer capitalism in America. We’re not structured that way any more. It’s not impossible, and I want to find ways to do it. I want to build tech that helps people to do it, and I’m not particularly concerned with getting rich in doing it, though it would be nice to not have to struggle the way I have my entire adult life because I didn’t make the choice to make money my primary focus. (I once turned down a $75K paycheck from a company who wanted to buy an app I was developing, because I didn’t want it to be used the way they wanted to use it. That was in the middle of the recession. To be fair, if they’d offered me double that, I might’ve taken it. I was ramen poor then.)

    My sadness comes from empathy with a world that seems cruel in spite of how amazing it is. Maybe you don’t feel that way, but I’d rather err on the side of empathy and sadness than turn away and feel content. Perhaps I’m insane. But I hopefully can live with it.

  21. I get that you’ve seen a lot of the world outside of America and see it reflected in the media and it pains you, it pains me too. If you think this is somehow a reflection of our time though it is not, the world has always been a cruel place (I forget which philosopher said ‘life is nasty, brutish and short’) and it is far LESS cruel than it ever was, and perhaps some happiness can be taken from the fact that since more of the world lives in a less cruel place than ever before the disparity between those and cruel ones is clearer than ever as is the realization that we have climbed past a place in human development where that is a ‘requirement’ to live.

    I still don’t understand the sentiment “it would be nice to not have to struggle the way I have my entire adult life because I didn’t make the choice to make money my primary focus”. People who make money their primary focus make money and don’t struggle because they care primarily about money. Some people who don’t make money anyway. But most people who choose to do what they love and not care about the money struggle. Because that is what struggling is; having insufficient funds to live where you want or eat what you want or do what you want and just getting by. Again I’d say living in a society where you actually have that choice is amazing.

    If you want to spend your personal or professional time trying to make life better for people or making opportunities for more people or bringing suffering to light that is a great thing. I’d argue that most of what gets created, even if not created for ‘altruistic’ purposes and even if they have negative side effects do in fact do those things. So people can also make money ‘helping others’ even if that is not their primary motivation (that being filling a need in order to make money).

    I don’t think you’re insane, I think insanity would be not noticing or caring about what goes on in the world. Let that influence how you treat people, what you find important, whom you associate with and what you create. But it does not have to preclude taking care of yourself and accepting that wanting nice things is not some boogey-man of corporate America but a human need and desire. I’m not sure if you read any Ayn Ran but one of her (misunderstood) philosophies was about ‘first handers’ and ‘second handers’. People thought it was about being elitist but it was the farthest thing from that; first-handers were people who had their own values and judged their lives and themselves by those standards; second-handers were people who lived by the standards of others and for their approbation of others. They literally lived through other people’s eyes and her idea of hell on earth was a place where everyone lived through everyone else’s eyes since then who would actually exist. So I think, in the end, one way to alleviate this sadness is to choose the values that are important by them and live by them. That is certainly a cure for ‘consumer capitalism’ but it also allows you to strive and buy and do things that bring you happiness without guilt.

    I hope that is a better answer than my first 😉

  22. “In an ideal world, Kim Kardashian would have spent her life getting sport-fucked…”

    You are trying to say that there is no reason for Kim Kardashian to be famous, yes? No reason for anyone to follow her comings and goings. Okay. A lot of people probably agree with you. But, saying in an ideal world any woman would be “getting sport-fucked” no matter what you consider the particular woman’s transgression to be is not okay.

    Or perhaps I misunderstand. Maybe you should define “getting sport-fucked”? What is it, exactly? That is not a rhetorical question. Because “getting sport-fucked” sounds aggressive and forced. It sounds a lot like rape. Getting fucked, not fucking. Diction and syntax, you know? Important stuff.

    Why is it that your response to a woman whose fame you do not personally approve of is to make her the object of sexual aggression? You don’t like Kim Kardashian, so she should get sport-fucked. Comments such as these, issued casually, as a joke, and seemingly ignored by most readers contribute to a culture of misogyny and violence against women.

    Considering your goals include not putting more “bullshit into the world,” “finding people to love, and healing each other,” you might want to be more careful about how you speak, write, and think about women.

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