Living with doubt

re: “fake news” and “real Americans”

The REAL vs. the FAKE is the political conflict of today. It’s also decades in the making. Hence:

  • chain restaurants advertise their AUTHENTIC recipes.
  • products in supermarkets – harvested, processed and transported via elaborate systems – are touted as ORGANIC.
  • highly edited, produced and staged shows are called REALITY TV.

When a candidate calls for “LAW & ORDER” in a time of unprecedented peace, the chaos he and his supporters fear is at least partly SPIRITUAL.

The death of God, the complexity of modern institutions, globalization, the resistance to colonialism and patriarchy have all contributed to an explosion of doubts.

But the greatest cause of uncertainty is almost certainly the result of greed. Over the last 40 years, the wealthiest have effectively campaigned to increase the amount of RISK and INSECURITY that others must bear; the vast majority must live in FEAR so that a tiny minority can enjoy certain returns on their investments.

This is the TERROR that drives so many Americans to support Trump. (Expanding social SECURITY would probably convert most Trump voters – and maybe even some Trump supporters.)

But the political is almost always reactive, not proactive. It’s a reaction to economic, moral AND intellectual crises. Addressing one but not the others will lead to pyrrhic victories and eventual disaster.

In this time of uncertainty, the gravest danger we face is to become fundamentalists – in our faith, in our politics, in our tastes.

It is tempting to replace one scapegoat with another – but the only way out of this labyrinth is to reject scapegoats altogether.

It may be that learning to live with doubt is an essential capacity for today.

practical meditations:

  • If you enjoy spirituality, consider reading a book called Fear & Trembling.
  • If you enjoy celebrity gossip, considering following the performer Joanne The Scammer.
  • If you enjoy sports, consider supporting the athletes who are dubbed blade runners.
  • If you are invested in your ethnic identity, consider celebrating modern hybrids alongside those who claim to be of pure blood and ancient ancestry.

Eyes

disney female protagonists in 1950 vs 2013

male vs female characters in same movie

Spirited Away 🇯🇵 & Princess Mononoke 🇯🇵 vs. Frozen 🇺🇸

Motherhood and the workplace

arrival-alien

The movie Arrival (2016) and the movie Alien (1979) are contrasting takes on motherhood and women in the workplace.

In Arrival, a successful professional woman finds personal realization – and saves the world – by experiencing a bittersweet motherhood. She’s aided by a pair of quirky squid-like aliens as she teaches men how to stop killing themselves.

In Alien, a working class woman fights for her life against a lethal co-worker hired by her corporate employer. The killer is a squid-like alien mother who kills men in order to feed her babies. The hero has to fight to be treated as an equal and ultimately escapes from this hostile workplace by going off, on her own, with a cat.

(Both are great movies.)

Legal or illegal, capital or labor

American-psycho-patrick-bateman

“You’ll get beautiful coverage, believe me, and the Mexicans will pay for it.” – Jeet Heer

This tweet is comedy because “and the Mexicans will pay for it” is referring to the wall that the Mexicans will never pay for and will not be built. (Though some connected families are going to make a killing billing 10x market for more drones, etc.)

This tweet is tragedy because when the ACA is taken away and the wall isn’t built and prices at Walmart are going up because of a trade war and/or instability around a resource threatened by a sudden and unexpected disruption in peace agreements, the Mexicans in the U.S. will be made to pay for it by being constantly harassed and shamed.

And by “the Mexicans” it could be an amalgam of Mexicans, Muslims and anyone else who can take the heat away from the failing kleptocracy.

But first, they’ll be called illegals.

Today, the incoming President referred to Syrian refugees in Germany as “illegals.” He used the same vague category that angry people use to refer to people they want to treat like criminals.

What’s remarkable about this language is that it mostly describes people in the U.S. whose crime is having committed fraud within the context of a business transaction: the sale of their labor.

In America, we usually call this kind of fraud white collar crime. White collar criminals commit some big stakes fraud with falsified documents submitted to the SEC or the IRS or the FDA or the FTC. These white collar criminals typically pay fines and keep on keeping on.

To recap: people who commit fraud while selling contracts or withholding earnings usually get to pay a fine and keep their dignity. People who submit false papers to sell their own labor… they can fuck the fuck off.

Do some people commit fraud to receive government benefits? Absolutely. Some military contractors do it. Some charter school companies do it. Some people without residency papers do it. We treat them all as people unless we think some of them are less than our standard for a person. To those people we refer as illegals.

Image – American Psycho

Facebook users deserve all their feels.

Facebook is software for managing your feelings.

It promises to be a tool for strengthening relationships – primarily, as a replacement for email – but it is engineered to create pleasure.

Facebook software organizes your relationships – your friends and family – in order to precisely administer the release of chemicals like oxytocin in your brain.

It aims to provide a frictionless, fast-loading experience. Facebook thus provides an important byproduct of social activity by stripping away much of what makes social activity meaningful. Consider what refined sugar is to raw fruits.

facebook-feelings

Like all tools, Facebook can be used for unintended purposes. If you want, Facebook will let you get high on anger through the release of dopamine. We have now seen what happens to the body politic when enough of it gets hooked on anger.

Facebook, the company, has no incentive to improve social activity. Its singular goal is to become better at producing pleasure in its users so as to gain a bigger share of their minds and then rent this “mindshare” to advertisers.

Consumers have little visibility into how Facebook is made. You can’t tour the factory. There is little regulatory oversight as to how this sausage is made. We only know about its experiments because of slips (no leaks, as of yet.)

In Europe, where governments are expected to provide for social welfare, there has been talk of opening up Facebook’s plantation of feels to government scrutiny. In the U.S., in the current climate, there will be no such review anytime soon.

As a consumer, you might expect to have finer control over how this software works. For example, you could set it to “help you grow”. Such a setting would expose you to ideas that create a sense of ambivalence – i.e., complicated feelings.

Complicated feelings lead to thinking which leads to new ideas and, usually, better outcomes. A tool that filters out complicated feelings may be profitable for its owners but they are not advancing the art of social communication.

To be truly high-tech, Facebook would have to commit to giving its users access to all the feels. It would commit to making money from stimulating thinking as well as stoking rage and indulging vanity.

Who are the architects?

A curious turn of phrase from Robert Gates as reported by David Ignatius:

“We’ve never had a populist movement or political insurgency quite like this — that actually captured the White House. That means there will be more discontinuities in our foreign policy. I’m telling people: ‘Give us some space here and have some strategic patience. And don’t overreact — even to Trump’s tweets.’”

Who exactly is going to be running foreign policy under the Trump administration?

Note that Trump doesn’t build buildings, he licenses his name to other people and collects rent.

diagnosis

the diagnosis of “mentally ill” is often used to strip people of their liberty. by governments and by family members, alike.

we Americans don’t do well discussing mental illness. its fruits can be spectacular and entertaining. we revere eccentrics and rebels, outliers and exceptions.

as with all of nature, there is no switch that gets flipped; no obvious dividing line marked in living tissue. it’s a horizon on a ship being tossed by a storm, a whirling diagonal.

we welcome the irrational as God’s voice, we abide by it as exuberance. we shun it as foolish, diabolical and diseased. but it is always with us and it permeates our cultures.

from the scientist who labors to block it out to the marketer who strives to tap into it. and then there are the leaders.

increasingly, we’ll see Donald’s followers described as members of a cult. the formulation is accurate insofar as the roots of that base word (cult) are entangled with that of our highest achievements (culture).

the leader of a cult is the howl of feedback you get when you place a microphone in front of a speaker. it’s the resonant frequency that makes the floors shake and the walls tremble.

in other words, the call is always coming from inside the house.

The industry of memory

On The Sympathizer:

Charlie Rose: You talk about the industry of memory. What’s that?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, we like to think that our memories are all equal, sort of a democratic notion, but in actuality, I think certain groups’ memories dominate over other groups, and those are the groups that have control over the industries of memory. Hollywood is one example of that, publishing is another example of that. This is why even though the United States lost the war in Vietnam, it won the war in memory because it controls these kinds of industries like Hollywood that the Vietnamese don’t control. The Vietnamese could win in their country, they can’t win globally. That’s why when people think about the Vietnam war, they think about how Hollywood has remembered it.

tired of winning

David Segal reviewing Norman Ohler’s Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany:

By 1944, the doctor had trouble finding veins to shoot. Then, as the Allies bombed the factories that produced Germany’s drugs, he had trouble finding opiates.

Also, re: miracle drugs:

“There are all these stories of party leaders coming to complain about their bombed-out cities,” Mr. Ohler said, “and Hitler just says: ‘We’re going to win. These losses make us stronger.’ And the leaders would say: ‘He knows something we don’t know. He probably has a miracle weapon.’ He didn’t have a miracle weapon. He had a miracle drug, to make everyone think he had a miracle weapon.”

relationship not yet known

Characters Matter

characters-3

If you’re a young Hispanic interested in a career in acting, seeing a Hispanic actor on the screen could validate your professional interest.

If you’re a young Hispanic, seeing a Hispanic character on the screen could validate your very existence.

Hispanics represent 19 nations as well as dozens upon dozens of cultures.

The only way to harness this massive potential, in terms of both creativity and audiences, is to create characters that represent these cultures.

Put differently: “cast more Hispanics” is asking employers to stop discriminating against Hispanic actors. It’s asking for an end to destructive, illegal behavior; i.e., stop doing this bad thing.

“Create more Hispanic characters” is asking media companies to exploit the wealth of Hispanic cultures. It’s asking for innovative, pro-growth behavior; i.e., start doing this good thing.

Elsewhere, otherwise

In What If the X-Men Were Black?

Image: Luke Cage, Jane Villanueva, Jessica Huang

Anxiety, Conspiracy

Kimberly Guiler on Turkey, ourselves:

Political attitudes are most malleable when prevailing conditions threaten people’s economic or personal security and cause them to feel out of control.[3] Specifically, Whitson and Galinsky argue that individuals who feel they lack control are more likely to harbor beliefs in conspiracy theories.[4] According to these authors, individuals can overcome their lack of control by identifying illusory patterns, or conspiracies, in order to make sense of their environment. Elites can, then, take advantage of anxiety-producing events where people lose their sense of control by “fomenting suspicion and uncertainty and then proffering solutions by identifying a source of blame.”[5] Following this logic, the bloody coup attempt and subsequent environment of uncertainty in Turkey presented a strategic opportunity for Erdogan to position himself as the key victim of a national tragedy and to unite the nation against a common source of blame: the West.

the carnivalesque and Trump rallies

In addition to being campaign events for an institutional political party and its candidate for POTUS, rallies can also be carnivals.

links and citations below.

growing economic inequality… led to increasing strife between the rich and poor, an aggressiveness on the part of the poor that found its primary outlet and escape valve in Carnival, with its freedom of word and deed against all, its degradation of the mighty by those over whom the mighty normally reigned… Carnival brought about the discharge of the people's agression by creating a momentary egalitarian utopia

for the duration of Carnival, the have-nots forgot their feelings of resentment because they were able to move as equals with the powerful in a world where everyone was equal.

[The Carnival is an] inverted world in which the powerful are not simply rendered powerless but humiliated.

The last act of the festival was often a drama in which 'Carnival' suffered a mock trial; made a mock confession and... was given a mock execution, usually by burning, and a mock funeral

The goal was to enforce social standards and to rid the community of socially unacceptable relationships that threatened the stability of the whole.

It allowed taboo-breaking, created ‘liminal’ (borderline) spaces in which new and alternative ideas could be expressed. And symbolic violence could turn into real violence, against authorities – or Catholics or Protestants or Jews.

1.
top left: Donald Trump on WWE (Screenshot/YouTube)
right: Rabelais and Bakhtin: Popular Culture in Gargantua and Pantagruel by Richard M. Berrong
bottom left: Woman screams at press after Trump rally: “we’re mad at you!”

2.
top left: Donald Trump supporters are ready to fight, literally, for their chosen candidate (Photo By Elise Amendola/Associated Press)
right: The Burgundian Carnaval depicted by a follower of Jheronimus Bosch, c.160
bottom left: Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Chicago

3.
top left: “Deplorable Lives Matter”, Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times
right: Rabelais and Bakhtin: Popular Culture in Gargantua and Pantagruel by Richard M. Berrong
bottom left: Supporters of Donald Trump cheer for the Republican party candidate in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on July 29, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

4.
top left: Donald Trump shaves the head of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon (Screenshot/YouTube)
right: Rabelais and Bakhtin: Popular Culture in Gargantua and Pantagruel by Richard M. Berrong
bottom left: Eileen Schilling (L) and Constance Gilligan, both supporters of republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, cheer during a campaign event where Trump spoke at Briar Woods High School August 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Virginia. / AFP

5.
top left: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
right: Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe by Peter Burke
bottom left: The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

6.
top left: This is a shirt
top right: The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
bottom: Carnival in the Netherlands From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

7.
left: Carnival and the Carnivalesque by Sharon Howard
top right: A protester, center left, and a Trump supporter, center right, scuffle during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Saturday, March, 12, 2016, held at the I-X Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Michael Henninger/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
bottom right: After Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Bursts out into star-sprinkled space.

From Alien by Walter Hill, David Giler and Dan O’Bannon:

Outside the windows, clouds, clouds, clouds.
Another tremor runs through the ship.
The crews eyes riveted to their instruments.

The ship clears the top of the cloud layer.
Bursts out into star-sprinkled space.
Trailing a wake of clouds.

later…

Kane lies slumped in his chair.
Very dead.
A huge hole in his chest.
The dishes are scattered.
Food covered in blood.

and…

She waits for a response.
But her expression shows that she expects none.
A long moment.
Expectations fulfilled.
Nightmare without end.

language, screenwriting

We are advised to not include Spanish language dialogue in an English language script. Rather, every character should, at first, speak English and then their words can be translated before production.

If only language and character could be so easily cleft.

If a character speaks English, she is thinking in English. If she speaks in Spanish she is often thinking through concepts that are distinct to Hispanic and/or Latin American cultures.

You may as well write a character as a man and then change him into a woman at the end. Her words, her self.

Bonus:

If it’s just a word here and there, and the meaning is obvious in context, don’t bother translating it. An example is when a ubiquitous foreign bad guy shouts at his men to do something. Since it doesn’t really matter what he’s saying, just use the foreign word if you know it. Sometimes, this type of dialogue doesn’t even make it on to the dialogue line, and gets summarized in the action…

Emphasis mine.