Culture Politics

Day 1296 and Mandate of Heaven

If you’ve been educated in the Western Cannon you are probably familiar with hubris. One does not defy the will of the gods.

The evolution of hubris from ancient Greece to modernity has extended our understanding of the prideful ego’s journey to arrogance. To be arrogant suggests a break with reality.

The term arrogance comes from the Latin adrogare, meaning “to feel that one has a right to demand certain attitudes and behaviors from other people”. To arrogate means “to claim or seize without justification… To make undue claims to having”

Who can claim the Mandate of Heaven? To even dare to do in many faiths suggests hubris. The breaching of limits and violations of the natural order suggest that Man should not suggest he knows the will of God.

And yet we push against the natural order all the time. Sometimes it is even demanded by the mythology of our moment. To make bold claims is to be sure you have a right to make them.

Watching the American mood witness invoking the will of any god is heady stuff. It is from the land of myths and those programs run on old operating systems. It’s not very hard to crash systemically when running on old programs. But I’d guess that is obvious to more than a few of us.

Culture Politics

Day 1295 and The Politics of Envy

Wanting what isn’t yours is very human. Monkey see, monkey do. Coveting always struck me as one of the most reasonable taboos.

Envy is an ugly emotion which deprives you of the joys you already have in your life. And yet so much of politics seems dedicated to stoking the suffering of unmet longing. The politics of envy may win votes but it can never produce a real policy.

I’ve been thinking perhaps too much about the consent of the governed. The state is granted a monopoly on violence through our consent. I fear a politics of envy because it eventually produces policies that will rely on not just on coercion but violence.

I don’t know where we are headed in America but I fear where envy leads us. It’s not simply about material things. One can envy power, prestige, cultural capital, beauty, intellect and countless other blessings.

Some of those things can be earned surely but many are providence. Those blessings cannot be taken as easily but they surely can be envied. I don’t wish us to follow those dark roads in search of riches which cannot be granted.

Emotional Work Politics

Day 1294 and Like Shit

I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that I’d been breaking down crying at regular intervals since the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.

I’m not a Trump supporter. I am and will remain a small government libertarian and I can’t see that changing short of fundamental shifts in material reality. Which is possible but human nature doesn’t change much.

I feel like absolute shit physically and emotionally about where we are at. The rapid changes that are proceeding in the wake of this violence cannot be undone. We are here.

I feel incredibly stupid saying this which is almost always a sign I should say it.
I’ve been breaking down into tears every couple of hours since the assassination attempt on Trump.
My emotional metabolism isn’t up to the acceleration unless I let myself feel it a

We are in a chaotic time and even I do not feel up to the rate of change. I’m afraid of what will happen no matter the outcome of the election.

I don’t think we should underestimate the trauma of political violence. A fellow citizen died for exercising his fundamental rights. He’s not the first and unlikely to be the last.

I want to feel less impacted emotionally but I can’t just stuff these feelings. I wish I could write more and at length about all of this but I’m simply not there. It’s all too painful.


Day 1292 and Well Heeled

Kayfabe is the art of being a real fake in professional wrestling. You are cast in a role and it is maintained for the audience. Many fans would agree that the most role is the heel.

A heel isn’t exactly a villain but they are antagonists and rule breakers.

 “The role of a heel is to get ‘heat,’ which means spurring the crowd to obstreperous hatred, and generally involves cheating and any other manner of socially unacceptable behavior.”

The Art of the Heel – Baffler.

When we can no longer agree on a hero, it is the heel who moves opinions. A personal mythos is more easily punctured than Kayfabe in the internet age of total recall. You step out of your assigned role and the hero’s journey is revealed to be a fraud. But a heel is always breaking rules.

We are in a well heeled age. Everywhere you turn is an antagonist. Cheering and jeering, we the audience long to see our heat applied. The heel relishes it and we relish their antagonism.

Would you rather be loved or feared? Machiavellians can debate but the audience loves a heel because they fear a world where no rules can ever be broken. His freedom represents their own.


Day 1291 and Gabby, Steve, and Donald

I started getting coded as right wing sometime in the last four years. I found this confusing. I have significant public opposition to Republican policies and Donald Trump in particular.

I’ve been small “l” libertarian for most of my adult life. I’ve vote for quite a few Democrats as I opposed neoconservatism. I registered Republican as the Democrats went from embracing business and technological growth to opposing it. I didn’t see free enterprise as a threat but as the engine of our progress.

I vote for Biden as I sincerely thought it was the best choice after a tumultuous four years under the ostensibly Republican Trump where I saw nothing but a bigger government and frayed norms around containing that government’s authority.

I don’t like a large state apparatus in principle and feel America is the nation that most sincerely pursues the liberty of its citizens. The state has been granted the sole monopoly on violence. That monopoly must exist for civilization but necessarily must be constrained by the rights of the citizens who consented to be governed.

I’m proud of the American experiment as a citizen, a Christian (in particular a Protestant) and a capitalist. That may sound conservative to some but in practice tended to get me left coded as I support less government involvement in nearly everything.

Drugs, sex work, reproductive freedom, medical freedom (which ranges from vaccines to sex & gender choice), speech (which includes compute), religion freedom and commerce are liberties best decided upon by responsible adults of good conscience.

We have codified this in our constitution and democracy is the working progress of finding a way to agree to be governed together. Whether it leans left or right is hardly the point. Each generation reacts with the choices it inherited from the one before it.

The political fight is to remain a citizenship that consents to be governed. America isn’t a monolith. We respect the liberties of our fellow citizens who have agreed to respect each others rights. If we disagree we arbitrate that through the government we’ve consented to be governed by. That is only possible insofar as we respect each others fundamental rights.

Violence is not meted out by individuals. The state alone has that monopoly and it ends at our personal rights. No citizen should ever claim the mantle of irreversible violence. Violence against those who we choose to govern us considered the most unacceptable to all citizenry. Political violence is never acceptable.

When we discuss a crisis of democracy and invoke mortal or existential threats we override the bonds that make us Americans. My respect for my fellow citizens must be in equal measure their respect for me. We are responsible for ourselves so that we may be responsible amongst and to other.

When I think of the violence that we’ve seen in the political process of deciding who represents us in our state I am furious. It is unacceptable that any of our representatives have been subject to violence. Since 2011 we’ve had three attempts at deadly political violence against Gabby Giffords, Steve Scalise and Donald Trump. This is terrorism and untenable.

The shock I feel today after witnessing an attempt on Donald Trump’s life last night substantial. I probably should have felt it more intensely for our Congressional representatives. I have taken so much for granted as an American.

The liberty I’ve felt to articulate my own views is unprecedented. We as a nation have tremendous capacity for disagreements. The political is a negotiation and we all accept compromises. All three of those politicians have positions I find to be unacceptable infringements on my liberty. Which is why I speak my case and vote for my positions.

I’ve felt perhaps wrongly that living my own freedom was politics enough And that means I have to speak when I see unacceptable things. We cannot continue to escalate the stakes.

I want America to remain a United States. I recognize I hold positions others disagree with. I may disagree with you. I don’t know how I’ll be coded from here and I don’t care. I am committed to being an American. I remain committed to the protection of my fellow citizens full liberties.

That Americans would die for them has been made more than metaphor too many times. Let us do all we can to prevent that so we can continue to live together in freedom. Let the blood of patriots remain imagery so we can continue to live united.


Day 1275 and Old Goat

I miss living in a world where nothing happens. I suspect well-off Americans took for granted the artificial smoothing of conflicts & markets that our global dominance granted. That era seems to be over. And blame must be apportioned.

Like many people, I watched the presidential debate last night between former President Trump and President Joe Biden. I had low expectations. It would seem they weren’t low enough.

You expect the lies from politicians. You expect spin from media commentators.

But nothing prepared me for the scapegoating of an old man clearly struggling. The entire chattering class, sensing weakness in Biden, seems to have decided to turn en mass.

A screenshot of headlines declaring Biden’s performance was a disaster.

Americans have many sins, not the least of which is tolerating a political establishment that is unable or unwilling to be held accountable.

Making a sacrifice of Biden when the hour is so late has the flavor of a desperate prayer. Placing those failures onto one symbol is powerful. Biden being subject to the ancient ritual in Leviticus was perhaps inevitable. The poor old goat deserved better than being made to carry the iniquities of us all.

Emotional Work

Day 1274 and Anger is Secondary

I am in a pocket of emotions today that I’m working through by writing. I’ve been told that anger is what’s called a secondary emotion.

Some metaphors that are helpful to understanding what is meant by a “secondary emotion” are thinking of anger as a boiling cauldron or a volcano. What you see isn’t the whole picture. It is the steam coming off something deeper. If you prefer cooler (literally) metaphor, the Gottman Institute calls it the Anger Iceberg.

The Anger Iceberg via Choosing Therapy from the Gottman Institute.

I am unsure what mix of feelings are making up my roiling cauldron. I’m struggling to feel them as chilly like an iceberg. The heat of it feels closer to my current experience than something frozen. But you get the picture. Looking underneath is important.

And underneath the anger disappointment, hurt, and frustration are all emotions I can “touch” as I explore ny feelings. But it’s underneath a roiling boiling mess that is only clear in glimpses.

I imagine I’m not the only one who struggles to see where the primary emotions. The optimism I have temperamentally abuts against a shared reality that feels angry.

I intend to watch a debate between two unpopular geriatric candidates for President of the United States of America. Of course being angry about that is secondary to a host of other more salient emotions. We must reach. It is crucial to reach those emotions if we desire to change as a nation.

Internet Culture Politics

Day 1272 and GWOT

As an elder millennial fascinated by the mass media I have a lot of mixed feelings on the American government and how it waged the “war on terror.”

It is heavy on my mind with the current news of Julien Assange’s agreement with the American government.

I think a lot about media, and in particular the technology that powers media. An informed population can still act in its own best interests but what we get told affects what we perceive as our best interests. And as we become more informed naturally some skepticism of the intentions of power arise.

Media affects how nation states wage wars. As we’ve evolved from print to television to radio to the internet how we sell the costs of war changed. But there are always populations who pay enough attention to be skeptical.

The open internet was born of that skepticism of government even so much of the technology emerged thanks to America’s heavy investment in defense industries.

Scientists used to have a wide range of politics and it’s not a surprise that defending American interests is a popular idea amongst people who work for the government. But maybe you see things and fight for more accountability along the way.

The GWOT unevenly affected millennials. If you were middle class your kid probably didn’t join up unless being in the service was how you got to being middle class. There was no draft.

Being in Colorado I had exposure to folks who worked for defense contractors as a lot of the private sector had settled around the cluster of talent from Boulder’s science labs down to the Air Force Academy in Fort Collins.

But there has been skepticism in all the branches of government as it became harder to control the narratives. And Americans don’t particularly like the idea of having propaganda even though I’d argue we produce and consumer enormous quantities of it as a nation.

I wish I could be more cogent about any of this. I am regularly shocked by how little people seem to remember how we prosecuted these long wars. We quickly forget.

Don’t be too sure human nature had changed. Don’t be too keen to give the government power because you are afraid. We’ve already seen what they do with it.


Day 1219 and Right To Cause Chaos

There is a lot of noise at the moment. But occasionally a single event is so loud you can’t help but overhear it. America’s President Joe Biden caught my attention with this rather singular statement.

“There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos”

I am not well informed on this current situation as the last week or so I’ve been outside of the American news media bubble. I am not so sure I wanted to become well informed given that is what has reached me.

Chaos is more appealing in the abstract than the particulars. I say this as someone who views the word with more positive valence than is probably accurate to its general meaning and certainly than current public perception.

I believe chaos is increasing and rather than accept its effects as inevitable we must actively investment in our capacity to adapt to it. Building resilience has proven to be a very good investment thesis.

I don’t endorse causing chaos deliberately. Friction its place in the world. So does disruption. I’ll even advocate for creative destruction. But being destructive deliberately has been rightfully called an agitator.

Do we much we need additional agitation in a world already filled with chaos? I don’t get to make that decision on my own but I personally think it’s better to build fixes to the chaos we’ve already got. I don’t need to give entropy any help.

Emotional Work

Day 1217 and Triggered

I deliberately put myself into an exercise today where I gave another person permission to trigger me. I mean trigger in the emotional sense.

caused to feel an intense and usually negative emotional reaction affected by an emotional trigger

Merriam Webster

I very much recommend the experience. If we workout our bodies and our minds surely we should consider the value in working our emotions over.

Openly welcoming emotional punches may seem about as sane as welcoming an actual punch but like in all things practice makes perfect. It’s good to prepare with the relevant skills for all kinds of things.

I am not a boxer or martial artist myself but I appreciate fight metaphors and their applications in the power dynamics of life. Much of living feels like a conflict to even the most level headed of us. Which I’m not sure is a title I can claim honestly but I do try to follow the maxim in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Don’t panic”

Douglas Adams

Even if we opted into some level of being available in the rituals of being alive we can find ourselves surprised to be considered fair game in the agendas and power struggles of others.

We are all civilians in our own mind. Sometimes we’ve stepped conflict without even knowing and you’d best keep your wits about you. Consequences for actions have a tendency to come back around for even the most cautious.

So if you’ve got the opportunity to be put into “fight or flight” you might find the opportunity worth the while. After all, everyone’s got a plan till they are punched in the face. So stay safe everyone!