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Category Archives: Nihilism

Trump Toys With a Let-Them-Die Response to the Pandemic – The Nation

Posted: March 24, 2020 at 5:09 am

The Nation believes that helping readers stay informed about the impact of the coronavirus crisis is a form of public service. For that reason, this article, and all of our coronavirus coverage, is now free. Please subscribe to support our writers and staff, and stay healthy. (Patrick Semansky / AP Photo)

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On Sunday night, 10 minutes before midnight eastern time, Donald Trump tweeted, WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO! As so often, the exegetical mystery of Trumps comments can be clarified by returning to the most important source of his worldview, Fox News. Earlier in the evening, Fox News Host Steve Hilton ranted against Trumps medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, who advocated draconian social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus until the medical system can be strengthened to deal with it.Ad Policy

Hilton argued that these measures would cause more damage than the coronavirus itself. You know that famous phrase, The cure is the worse than the disease? Hilton asked. That is exactly the territory we are hurtling towards.

The push for social distancing measures, including closing schools and restaurants, is relatively new. Closure of these institutions was only announced in New York on March 15. Yet there are signs that many on the political rightand even centrist business leadersare already sick of the public health emergency. They want the economy to go back to normal and are promoting fringe ideas in an attempt to discredit mainstream epidemiologists.

Its unclear whether Trump can actually roll back any of the existing quarantine measures, which are set by governors and mayors. But Trump can certainly affect the behavior of his supporters. If millions of Trump fans think that quarantines arent worth the aggravation, they are much more likely to violate them. Thats the most likely danger of Trumps tweet and his potential shift in policy. MORE FROM Jeet Heer

Fox News has already helped poison policy on the pandemic. The network was a major promoter of the idea that warnings about a pandemic were a hoax designed to derail Trumps presidency. Trump initially went along with that until he was persuaded by a dissident in the Fox ranks, Tucker Carlson, to take the pandemic seriously.

But its clear that an influential faction at Fox still believes the coronavirus threat is oversold. On Friday, a bevy of Fox personalities, including Laura Ingraham and Brit Hume, were hawking on twitter a Medium post by Republican operative Aaron Ginn arguing that the government was over-reacting to the coronavirus. Ginn is not an epidemiologist, and his post was riddled with analytical errors. It was quickly taken down by Medium, but not before being seen by millions

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial arguing, If this government-ordered shutdown continues for much more than another week or two, the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most Americans imagine. This wont be popular to read in some quarters, but federal and state officials need to start adjusting their anti-virus strategy now to avoid an economic recession that will dwarf the harm from 2008-2009.Current Issue

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In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnsons government initially followed a hands-off strategy along this line, with the idea that it might be best to let the coronavirus spread quickly in order to minimize social disruption. This idea was abandoned once Johnsons government came to realize the dangers of overwhelming the health care system.

Its not just the far-right that is talking like this. Former Goldman Sachs CEO and Hillary Clinton supporter Lloyd Blankfein tweeted out on Sunday night, Extreme measures to flatten the virus curve is sensiblefor a timeto stretch out the strain on health infrastructure. But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work.

The problem with these arguments is twofold: They underestimate the dangers of scuttling social distancing programs too soon; they also disregard the tools needed to return to cushion the economic shock. As evident from the examples of both China and Italy, extreme measures are needed to slow the spread of the virus or it will overwhelm the health care system, leaving a potential death toll in the United States in excess of 10 million. If the virus is slowed down, theres a real chance that the health care system can get the medical equipment (ICU beds and ventilators) needed to keep the death count to a minimum. Giving up on social distancing too early will doom countless Americans to a painful and unnecessary death.

The economic costs of the coronavirus are real, but they can be dealt with through robust intervention: a combination of universal basic income, mortgage, and rent forgiveness, bailouts for small business and a Keynesian booster shot at the end of the pandemic.

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The problem is that the political right, along with centrists like Blankfein, dont want such a heavy intervention in the economy. As a result, they indulge in a truly grotesque display of self-interested reasoning and argue that there can be a quick and easy end to quarantines, shutdowns, and social distancing campaigns.

What they are arguing for goes beyond Social Darwinism and is, in fact, a kind of cult capitalism. The existing system is viewed as so sacred that it is worth sacrificing innumerable human lives to keep it going. Even nonrevolutionary changes to the system are anathema.

Economics and medicine have always been intertwined, sometimes in strange ways. Under the surface of economic ideas, there are often metaphors taken from medicine and psychology: We talk about curing a depression, which can refer to both a person and an economy.

There flourished in Vienna from 1850 to 1870 a school of medicine some historians have dubbed therapeutic nihilism. This school held that most medical interventions did more damage than good and advocated that doctors simply oversee the natural process of recovery. There was some logic to this: It was the era of quack remedies.

Therapeutic nihilism had a curious afterlife. As William Johnson notes in The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848-1938 (1972), therapeutic nihilism lived on even past the 1870s in the pessimism of many Austrian thinkers, ranging from Freud to Wittgenstein. Therapeutic nihilism was also an influence on the Austrian economics of Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, the foundational thinkers of the modern libertarian right. In his book The Viennese Students of Civilization (2016), intellectual historian Erwin Dekker makes a compelling case that von Mises and Hayeks opposition to government interventions in the economy was a manifestation of therapeutic nihilism.

Von Mises and Hayek were major opponents of John Maynard Keynes, who believed that economic depressions shouldnt just be allowed to run their course but could be shortened by active government measures.

As in the great disputes between the Austrian school and the Keynesians, we now face a fundamental divide in both medicine and economics. Do we embrace therapeutic nihilism and just shrug our shoulders in the face of a pandemic, hoping that it will quickly extinguish itself? Or do we believe that human ingenuity and social cooperation can work together for solutions, ones that involve real sacrificesbut that can also help limit human misery?

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How to mix compassion and cooperation into social distancing – Herald and News

Posted: at 5:09 am

Resilient societies are able to bounce back from disruptions. The capacity to rebuild physical infrastructure is, of course, important after calamity strikes. But resilience also requires shoring up social infrastructure, the ties that bind us together.

During events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the efforts of community members were pivotal to saving lives. When Superstorm Sandy destroyed parts of New York City in 2012, one of the biggest predictors for which neighborhoods recovered quickest was the degree to which people living in them felt they could count on each other for help. People's willingness to assist their neighbors was key.

As we face the COVID-19 epidemic, social infrastructure will play a crucial role. So much of effective social distancing depends on our willingness to act in ways that seemingly put the interest of others before our own. In other words: to be compassionate.

In the face of crises, fear is a common emotion and in the short term, it can grab our attention and make us more cautious. But it can also lead to problems like panic buying and hoarding of resources. It can cause us to care less about others, especially people who are from different ethnic backgrounds. In short, fear can pull us inward, away from the cooperation that's needed now.

Compassion, on the other hand, is an emotion that can drive cooperation. As research from my lab and others has shown, feelings of compassion toward one person can spill over and affect how we treat others - even strangers - by pushing us to share their burdens or to refrain from causing them harm. It makes us willing to sacrifice for a common benefit.

As many evolutionary simulations have shown, societies where people are primarily cooperative thrive in the long run compared with those where people are more competitive with each other. Selfish behaviors like price-gouging or hoarding erode trust if they become a social norm and could lead to a collapse of resources that imperils everyone.

Humans innately know this. And it's why adversity can bring about compassion as well as fear. Our research into how people respond to adversity has shown that many of those who experienced natural disasters, serious illness and loss of loved ones became more compassionate toward others in response to these tragedies.

The tricky part with the COVID-19 crisis is that it's scrambling the ways we normally experience compassion and cooperation. Social distancing means we can't lend a shoulder to cry on; we can't come together in person to help out older, more vulnerable people; we can't go out to support our local restaurants and shops.

While this situation could lead to a feeling of hopelessness, or even nihilism, I've been heartened to see people finding creative ways to adapt. Just look at the viral videos of the Italians singing in unison from their balconies and Spaniards collectively applauding the nation's health care workers. While these acts might seem minor, psychologically speaking, they're incredibly powerful.

To the mind, moving or singing in synchrony is a signal of bonding - a sign that our outcomes are joined. Piercarlo Valdesolo, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, and I have found that even simple acts of synchrony - having people tap their hands in time to random tones together - leads them to feel more compassion for each other and will even cause them to go out of their way to assist one another. During this health emergency, that could lead to a greater willingness to stay at home, to buy only what's needed and to share resources in whatever way is possible.

There are, in fact, ways to cultivate compassion to support our better instincts.

You could, for example, take part in a "virtual reciprocity ring" - a group exercise that creates a norm for the giving of assistance. Get a group of people you know and have them each bring in one or two more people you don't know. Everyone then posts something they need help with: an elderly person who's homebound may want help ordering groceries online; a parent may need child-care because schools have closed; a laid-off worker may need some financial help at the moment. Each person in the ring then volunteers to pick a post and agrees to help.

These actions can improve lives, but also create a web of gratitude. And that sense of gratitude will lead those taking part in the ring to continue to pay favors forward, a phenomenon that has been demonstrated in our research. In this way, the cycle of gratitude and compassion becomes self-sustaining.

The research I've done with colleagues has also found that meditation, which can reduce anxiety and blood pressure, can increase compassion and reduce hostility. After only a few weeks of practicing meditation, people in our studies were more willing to help strangers in need and to refrain from responding aggressively when provoked.

We could all benefit from this state of mind when we're tempted to break quarantine or wrestle someone for that last roll of toilet paper in the supermarket.

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It’s Absolutely Ok to Dump Someone Over Their Awful Pandemic Behaviour – VICE

Posted: at 5:09 am

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Its stupid at this point to play the remember one month ago!?!? game, but, for these purposes, its worthwhile: One month ago, your partners rugged individualism and unwillingness to read an entire article before weighing in were charming personality quirks; the kind of stuff thats either endearing or aggravating, depending on your mood.

But now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be viewing those traits in an entirely different light. Alexs individuality and and fuck it, lets party!!! nihilism isnt just Alex doing Alex when were talking about social distancing and other necessary precautions. Seemingly personal choices are now a literal matter of life and death, and could reveal a significant difference in values within your relationship, making you wonder if this person is the right match for you. (So many people are facing similar dilemmas, theres an entire website dedicated to documenting quarantine partner drama.)

Maybe you were considering breaking up before you got stuck in an apartment with your partner for the foreseeable future, or maybe being stuck with them has made you realize this isnt working for you. While the ongoing pandemic has slowed (or completely halted) most parts of our lives, this one particular thing doesnt have to be put on hold. You can still end a relationship, provided you can do so safely (more on that later).

Conventional wisdom tells us to not make any big, life-changing decisions during times of increased stress, the idea being that our little brains cant think clearly when were processing intense emotions. But the nature of this unprecedented situation may actually provide necessary clarity. There might be no better way to learn how you want to live your lifeand who you want to share it withthan staring down your own mortality.

Rosara Torrisi, a certified sex therapist based in New York, told VICE that this moment is essentially a compatibility test for a lot of couples, old and new. The coronavirus pandemic is going to reveal not just how they respond to this specific situation, but also how they might deal with other rough life moments. Being in a high-stress moment for a long period of time in a relationship thats gonna happen, Torrisi said. Whether its COVID[-19], or someone getting really sick, losing money, or losing a job, theres a million ways that you will be stressed in a long-term relationship. This is one of those moments.

The way individuals react to a stressful situationand react to each others reactionsis a fairly big part of their overall long-term compatibility. And if those responses are drastically differentperhaps you skew more doomsday prepper, while your partner is more Margaritaville-chillin, stocking up only on weed and video games and telling you to calm downand lead to problems, thats important information to have. Are you cool being with someone who will never be freaking out along with you, or who you think is constantly overreacting?

Alternatively, Torrisi points out that extremely similar ways of coping might be just as bad. Lets say two partners are together and theyre exceptionally anxious and following the news, just kind of amping each other up; thats not really helpful, either, she said. That can be harder to spot, because it typically feels good when someone agrees with you and eggs you on. But if youre getting a nagging sense that the person youre with is not bringing out the best in you, its worth paying attention to that feeling.

The actual logistics of managing a break up right now are where things get a little trickier. If your partner is simply a pain in the ass who you no longer want to be with but can tolerate for a while longer, and youre already secure in your pandemic bunker, Torrisi said you may just want to stay put. If your safety is still intact, you always have to prioritize that, she said.

For the actual breakup, its important to try maintaining the peace in your pandemic bunker. To do that, Torrisi recommended having a radically empathetic conversation. Even if you find your partners behavior to be batshit and wrong, trying to understand it will lead to a calmer conversation than holding up an empty box of rigatoni and screaming, HOW DID YOU ALREADY EAT ALL OF OUR PASTA, YOU FREAK, THIS IS EXACTLY WHY WE CANT BE TOGETHER!!!!

Even if you disagree, you might have a better understanding of where they are coming from, Torrisi said. And then you can say, OK, I understand why, I can empathize with it, but I completely disagree with it. It makes it really clear for me that your decision making is not something I can get on board with, or that I want to be a part of long term.

If youre currently sharing a space and youre worried your partner may harm you if you try to break up with them, but you cant currently go to a shelter or family members house, an appropriate alternative would be to find a friend who lives within walking distance, and will agree to hunker down with you for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline are equipped to help you, even during a pandemic when theres limited mobility.

The TL;DR here is this pandemic sucks hard enough without adding the unnecessary pressure to stay in a bad relationship into the mix. DTMFA, and soothe your pains with one of your favorite rations.

Follow Hannah Smothers on Twitter.

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‘Bad Boys For Life’ Digital Release Coming This Month, Blu-ray in April – /FILM

Posted: at 5:09 am

The surprisingly good (maybe even great?)Bad Boys For Life is about to come home. The sequel is due to hit digital at the end of March, almost a full month before its Blu-ray release. This somewhat early digital release is likely meant to coincide with several other big titles that have scored early releases in the wake of the coronavirus. Movie theaters are shut down, people are stuck home, and studios are scrambling to fill the void.

You can score Bad Boys For Life on digital starting March 31, and then on4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD April 21. Theres usually a gap between digital and physical releases, but its traditionally not a nearly month-long gap. Sony is likely hoping to get in on the early digital release trend that several other films have been adopting in the wake of the coronavirus, includingThe Hunt,The Invisible Man,Birds of Prey,The Way Back, and more.

Ill be honest: I had very low expectations forBad Boys For Life. But the movie was a pleasant surprise, abandoning a lot of the cruel nihilism of the second film while letting the characters grow a little. As I wrote in my review:

But its the unexpected amount of heart that ends up makingBad Boys for Lifea pleasant surprise. In the previous two films, one gets the distinct sense that Mike and Marcus really dont give that much of a shit about each other or anyone else. Sure, theysaythey ride together, die together but its hard to buy it in those movies. Smiths Mike Lowery in particular often comes across as a borderline psychopath in those first two movies someone who only cares about his own image. Mike starts like that in this film as well, but as the story races on, he softens a bit. He may not want to admit it we learn hes started dying his goatee but hes getting older now. And some people mellow out when they get older. They slow down, and they realize theyve been taking certain things for granted. If theBad Boysfranchise of all damn things can have actual emotional growth there might be hope yet for all of us.

And oh yeah, the villain of the film is awitch I feel like not enough people appreciated that fact. InBad Boys For Life, Mike Lowry (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), are back. After a string of assassinations and an attempt on Mikes life, he convinces a hesitant Marcus to hold off retirement and partner one last time. Together, they team up with AMMO, the new hotshot division of the Miami PD, to take down the merciless head of the Aretas Cartel.

Here are the special features included with the home media releases:

4K ULTRA HD, BLU-RAY AND DIGITAL BONUS MATERIALS

DVD BONUS MATERIALS

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Five Questions with D. Vance Smith, author of "The Arts of Dying" – UChicago News

Posted: at 5:09 am

How do we talk about one of lifes most persistently hard to describe events: death? Poets, musicians, playwrights, philosophers, theologians, and artists have tried to describe death for centuries, but this question still puzzles us today. With his new book, The Arts of Dying: Literature and Finitude in Medieval England, D. Vance Smith goes back to consider the ways that medieval people thought and wrote about death. We talked with Vance about the book, how people in the Middle Ages thought about dying, the problems of language when it comes to death, and how ideas about death and dying are presented now. He also touches on the particular relevance of these questions today as we face the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic.

How do you come to this subject? Was there a particularpiece of literature that sparked your interest?

I wrote a book a while ago (The Book of the Incipit) about the many ways medieval people thought about beginnings and shaped them in literature, and I started thinking about endings and what Foucault called the analytic of finitude then. Dying is the ultimate ending, and I found the intellectual and emotional challenge of writing about it important, but also overwhelming. The problem of large-scale mourning, and how it might change a culture, resonated with me because I grew up in the midst of war and epidemic in Africa, and a life-long struggle with bipolar disorder has made melancholy an all-too-familiar problem. But two texts, in particular, sparked this project: Chaucers Book of the Duchess, in which the narrator apparently has so much trouble understanding the message that a speakers loved one is dead that it would be hilarious if it werent also heartbreaking. And Gillian Roses Mourning Becomes the Law, a powerful, cryptic, and profound work has stayed with me since it first came out in 1996. It seems now, in March 2020, more important than ever: she asks howno, insists that we mustgo on in the face of catastrophe and ruination. How can we find a resolution, or determination, that is more than an aesthetic appreciation of art and literature? Her book is a fierce riposte to Batailles work on death as an infinite conversation; we must find a way to respond, she argues, that is not mere capitulation to inevitable nihilism. I did take from Maurice Blanchot the idea, however, that literatures particular engagement with death is part of what makes something literature: an openness, a lack of resolution, that allows one to think with a certain kind of respect, if not piety, toward the dead. Even if we cant solve the problem of death, were all caught in the work of dying, and we have to decide how to move on.

In the book, you discuss some of the complexities of discussing death: its position as both an end and a beginning, something about which we cannot speak with personal experience, and the strangeness of saying someone is dead when they really are no more. Could you talk a bit about these problems of describing death?

One of the central problems in medieval philosophy was how to designate something that didnt technically exist. You could call it a critique of the metaphysics of absence, except that the problems it raised for the philosophy of language anticipates the so-called linguistic turn in philosophyso, really, its a version of the critique of the metaphysics of presence most familiar to us in Derridas work. In fact, the problem of talking about the dead pops up repeatedly in his early work.

In literature, the problem takes the form of a search for words that will adequately do the work of death, impossible as that might be. It might sound like a mere pun, but its a search for terms that will do the work of terminationthe work of somehow resolving the never-ending relationship we have with our own deaths. The distinction I make between cryptic and archival modes of writing about death rests, to some degree, on the two lodestones of thinking about death in the modern epoch: Heideggers notion of death as the central existential question: Being-toward-death is the path to a certain kind of authenticity because death is ones ownmost, something that you can never share. The other is the broadly sociological notion of death as a symbolic, social event, probably most famously explored by Phillipe Aris.

What my book does is to examine how these elliptical references to death helped to shape the way people thought about the function of literature: it allowed people to think about overwhelming events indirectly, in ways that perhaps placed the emotions in the background by making demands on the intellect to connect the dots.

What are some approaches to writing about death that youdiscuss in the book?

I try to make sense of the vast field of literature about death in the Middle Ages by dividing it into three types of literary response: the debate between the body and the soul after death; the use of enigmas and riddles to try to represent an event that is, after all, unthinkable; and the deployment of a repertoire of representations of death. All three of these imply different ways of imagining history: as a series of existential inflection points; as something we are sealed off from forever, a mode that I described as cryptic, because it represents death as something sealed from us, and something we will never fully understand; and history as an archive, filled with images of previous deaths, whose totality might, in some notional future, help us make sense of death by archiving all previous deaths.

How do these compare to the ways in which we speak andwrite about death today?

Unfortunately, this book became a lot more topical just asit was being released. Im seeing more and more stories about how the worldmight change after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Even the most pessimisticprojections of fatalities, however, dont come close to the figures for theBlack Death of the mid-fourteenth century, which killed around half of thepopulation in some areas. Whats perplexing about literature in the wake of theBlack Death is that relatively little of it concerns death, at least not in theway we might expect: outside of famous examples like the opening of BoccacciosDecameron, theres little about massive catastrophe, and the morbidtropes and figures that we associate with late medieval writingthe dansemacabre, the transi-tomb, King Deathdont really appear for a generationor two. What does happen, however, is that people write about catastrophicdeath in elliptical, cryptic ways, almost as if its too much to representdirectly. In some ways this reticence resembles our own squeamishness intalking about deathwe tend to use euphemisms like passing or Latinisms like deceased.What my book does is to examine how these elliptical references to death helpedto shape the way people thought about the function of literature: it allowedpeople to think about overwhelming events indirectly, in ways that perhapsplaced the emotions in the background by making demands on the intellect toconnect the dots.

Whats next for you? Are you working on any projects thatyoure particularly excited about?

Im finishing a book (currently titled Black Silence, White Noise) about the ways in which the African dimension of the profound contribution of African intellectuals to late antique and medieval European intellectual culture was forgotten, and the ways in which colonialism remapped its own vision of medieval law and social relations onto African colonies. Ive also begun a shorter book called Blood Flowers, about the flower and game conservation industries in Kenya.

D. Vance Smithis professor of English at Princeton University. He is the author of four books, most recently,The Book of Incipit: Beginnings in the Fourteenth Century.

The Arts of Dying is available now from our website and your favorite bookseller.

Tags: blackdeath, medieval, pandemic

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Editor’s Column: Viruses don’t care, we have to – Rio Blanco Herald Times

Posted: at 5:09 am

No, we dont get to be excluded from a pandemic. As nice as it would be to have a free pass to avoid everything associated with the coronavirus situation, there is no such pass.

We can feel sorry for ourselves that a stupid virus has upended our lives temporarily (permanently, for the unfortunate ones it kills and their families). We can be angry and stomp and yell and throw things (wine glasses shatter very nicely, by the way). We can yield to sorrow and depression and nihilism. We can stubbornly refuse to comply with guidance from experts and rail against government efforts to control the speed with which this thing spreads as attacks on our personal freedoms, and we can deny not only scientific facts but real-time data from other countries around the world who are also dealing with this. We can do all those things. None of them are helpful.

A virus doesnt care if youre a Republican or a Democrat. A virus doesnt care if you had a vacation planned or a wedding or tickets to a concert or graduation or any other human event scheduled. Viruses simply dont have the capacity to care, and because they dont, we must.

We must care for one another by taking precautions and protecting the most vulnerable among us, by supporting our local business owners and our displaced workers in whatever way we can, by looking after our neighbors and friends if this thing drags on, which its likely to do, given what were seeing in other nations.

This is going to leave a mark, much like the events of 9/11 left a mark, and possibly a much larger one. What did we do in the face of that enemy? We came together as a nation to defend one another, to do what was necessary for the greater good. Will we do that again, when the enemy is invisible and already among us? For all our sakes, I hope so.

Do your part.

By Niki Turner | editor@ht1885.com

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Trapped by the White Mans Devils – laprogressive.com

Posted: at 5:09 am

A certain amount of despair is, well, healthy. But that fine line between using it as a motivator and that other type of the neutering kind, or the type of despair that pushes one over the edge into depression, its a matter of degree. And perspective.

Denial certainly staves off despair. The huge swath of Americans who are either MAGA crazed or believers in the Democratic party line of war, neoliberalism, austerity, and the facilitators of the dog-eat-dog mentality that is capitalism under any level of American self-declared red-white-and-blue. Bloomberg or Gates, or Bezos or Buffett, they all are the power brokers of despair.

Their riches and their self-importance and their overlord power, all of it, the cause of so much despair in thinking and feeling people.

For me, a few weeks away from Dissident Voice and these polemics is more of a symptom of business that is the new normal for Americans, young and old. I turned 63, and here I am, with three jobs, and a fourth avocation attempting to hawk my books in a climate of controlled opposition mega-obscene celebrity publishing.

All bets are off since all books readings have been canceled in Washington and Oregon, thanks to CV-19.

But it begs the question . . .

No one buys books of fiction anymore, and few read novels and short story collections, two of my forms of creative expression. My writing is not happy-go-lucky, and the concept of narrative and the great American novel/short story form I have little tolerance for.

Ive done the college degrees Journalism, English, Rhetoric, Writing and have had my time with smug MFA types and worse, belittling professors of writing, AKA Literary Little Eichmanns.

The despair I have within the context of my own struggle and creative avocations, conjoined with my disregard for this society, or the Western culture of rapacious theft and degradation of other peoples, other cultures, other lands can set forth a type of nihilism or cynicism that proves unworthy of my own desire to continue chopping at the windmills in a ritual of helping as many people as I can.

It is struggle, talking to commercial novelists, or those that have tenure outposts at colleges who are a safe bet, or who wrangle their words from a highly structured environment of strictures that kill any outlier or outrageous way for writing.

There are not just rules for their form of creative fiction, but rules of the game.

The oddity of the US Forest Service having a little outpost near Yachats, Oregon, called Devils Churn is remarkably absurd. Think about it the number of things in western societies named devil this, devil that in a land ripped from the true caretakers of these places is both pathetic and demeaning.

All original names from first nations peoples have been ham-fisted into suffering Anglo Saxon or Germanic or Greek oddities. Spanish, too.

I take the path almost daily to this little cataract of waves surging in and out and pounding the volcanic rocks of this cool place along the Oregon Coast. I leap around slick rocks, look for a sign of any sea star clinging to the rocks, even though I know seastar wasting disease has decimated most of the species of sea stars in Oregon waters.

Along a rocky portion of the geographic stop I see a placard, put out by the Forest Service, in some sort of historical remembrance of the native peoples who used this part of the world for centuries as clamming sites, and, well holy, places.

Its been scratched to death, this plaque, with most of the wording obscured by gouges in the Plexiglas. Amazing, this plaque is off the beaten path, under salal and pine boughs. I feel that despair how the white tourists, the miscreant species, probably with their collective balled up hate for the Indians, just decided to say to the world that the history of these indigenous people are meaningless.

So they scratch off a culture, at least in their square small minds.

Probably dangerous to the illiterate masses this wasteful country keeps churning out yearly in our PK12 schools and those bastions of higher education called colleges and universities. Knowledge and history are the bane of Americans thinking, whether its the current accused pedophile in high office who daily bombards us with lies, or masses more that have the power positions: business heads, politicians, the financial class, CEOs, the rich and famous.

In this time of hysteria, bad planning, no health care safety nets, no leadership, no human governance, we are all stuck in the place of plague!

Thatcher is more relevant now than every. Her words are tattooed on the asses ofFortune 1000sociopahts and on Trump LLCs neck, on Pelosis and Schumers and Dianne Feinsteins dirty rotten backs.

Margaret Thatcher said it plainly, remember? The clipped syllables yet issue from that throat of near-mechanical inelasticity:

theres no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.

Therein lies the dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, the firedApprenticeshit Americans consume and bow to.

So simultaneously looking at this amazing place of crashing Pacific (Devils Churn or Devils Punchbowl) waves and realizing how my fellow citizen and I are worlds apart lends a certain despair in my bones.

THE DIFFERENCE between despairAnd fear, is like the oneBetween the instant of a wreck,And when the wreck has been.

The mind is smooth,no motion 5Contented as the eyeUpon the forehead of a Bust,That knows it cannot see.

Emily Dickinson (183086), Complete Poems, 1924, Part Five: The Single Hound

This is meandering and it should be. I have gone many miles inside my brain since I started writing this. Man, the world has topsy-turved, but it was expected. My next piece is on bats all those bats I lived with in caves in western Vietnam working with teams of researchers on biodiversity studies. Bats, man, some 1,300 species, and then, the corona!

I can leap around back to the bailouts for airlines, for a putz like Richard Branson, for so so many millionaires and billionaires. My daughter in Spokane, however, is out of work. The aesthetician school she was about to attend is on hold. Her photography is on hold since she does cool shots of businesses and people. Her significant other just opened up a New York-style pizza place, and that too is closed down. Things will close more and more.

The closing of the American mind slammed shut decades ago. My new book short stories, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam has my preface in it discussing the no more Vietnam War mistakes syndrome. That is the neocon syndrome, the neoliberal syndrome, of making sure to go into someone elses land and bomb them back to the stone age, both literally and with financial nukes.

Vietnam was all about the ramped up bioweapons (that started back thousands of years ago, but for USA, well, read on, and weap:A Short History of Bio-Chemical Weapons.

Damn, this well-doneCounterpuncharticle doesnt even have listed the Swine Flu USA/taxpayers/CIA unleashed upon Fidels Cuba San Francisco Chroniclefirst reported this, and alas, its not even discussed in a time of bat corona, AKA SARS. That was 1971.

Rumsfeld, Cheney, Swine, Turkey Feather and CIA deja vu in Cuba

With at least the tacit backing of U. S. Central Intelligence Agency officials, operatives linked to anti-Castro terrorists introduced African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971.

Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.

A U. S. intelligence source toldNewsdaylast week he was given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at a U. S. Army base and CIA training ground in Panama with instructions to turn it over to the anti-Castro group.

Why oh why have thechickens come home to roost?

it was the evil of slavery that caused the downfall and destruction of ancient Egypt and Babylon, and of ancient Greece, as well as ancient Rome, Malcolm told his audience. In similar fashion, colonialism contributed to the collapse of the white nations in present-day Europe as world powers. The exploitation of African Americans will, in turn, bring white America to her hour of judgment, to her downfall as a respected nation.

Malcolms core argument was that America, like the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, was in moral decline. The greatest example of its moral bankruptcy, Malcolm argued, was its hypocrisy.

White America pretends to ask herself, What do these Negroes want? White America knows that four hundred years of cruel bondage has made these twenty-two million ex-slaves too (mentally) blind to see what they really want.

All those Wall Street, Military Industrial Complex, Economic Hits, CIA-launched Businesses, Structural Adjustment, Bioweapon-producing, Fat Boy and Little Boy Nuke hugging leaders of the free world need these pandemics, these September 11, 2001s, all of it, to keep the engines of money and surveillance capitalism going.

And it all comes down to my friend Joe from California. Its a long letter to me, but so many layers of truth and emblematic connections to the readers everyday lives and struggles in so many ways. The layers of how messed up USA under capitalism are deftly stratified here.

Paul

My oldest brother was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a nurse binding my mothers legs together because the doctor was still at the golf course and not present for the delivery. As a result of that stupidity, my oldest brother, who was already engaged in the birth canal, starved for air. It fucked him up pretty good.

My father never really handled my oldest brother very well. I think he felt my brothers handicap was somehow a reflection on him. People and society back then had some pretty weird ideas about what being a man was. Coming off the war, a man was supposed to be tough, and having a child like my brother I dont think fit in real well to my fathers image of himself.

Growing up in that household was one Hell of a life experience never knowing what was going to set things into pandemonium. The best and worst thing or maybe the worst and best thing that ever happened to my brother was that some medical quack recommended my brother have shock therapy, which turned out to be like pouring gas on a raging fire. The best thing that ever happened to him was that he was institutionalized and assigned a councilor that did more to help my brother than probably anything else in his life. This man was truly a Godsend for my brother. And then came Ronald Reagan. Ive often pondered who was crazier Ronald Reagan who closed the mental health hospital where my brother was being treated, or my brother. Fortunately the councilor that was helping my brother, before getting the ax, got my brother on aide to the totally dependent.

ATD and with the help of the family, my brother was able to live independently in his own small apartment in Merced. He was crazy as a shithouse rat, but he wasnt stupid. In some ways I think my oldest brother was the smartest of the bunch. When Nixon went off the gold standard because Charles de Gaulle demanded gold as exchange rather than paper dollars, my brother would take cash from his check and exchange it for rolls of coins. He would take the silver coins out and replace them with the copper coins and do it over and over until he ran out of money and had to wait for his next check.

He did this until he had about fifteen hundred dollars in face value of silver coins. When the Bass brothers in Texas decided they were going to skin a fat hog and try to capture the silver market, my brother got my mother to come in and take him to get the silver coins he had amassed exchanged for dollars. He made a sizable wad of cash out of the deal, and, fortunately, my Mother who didnt know my brother had been doing this, took possession of his wad and doled it out to him to help with his food, clothing and rent; otherwise, he would have just pissed it away.

I would take vegetables to him after Market on Saturdays; he would never let me inside his apartment which Im sure was a fucking mess. What finally ended up happening to him was he contracted a disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome. Its the most horrible fucking disease you can imagine. It started as numbness in his feet and slowly moved up his bod,y until he was completely paralyzed. The only way anyone could communicate with him was to formulate questions in a yes or no sequence and have him blink once for yes and twice for no. He was sent from hospital facility to hospital facility like yesterdays trash with every move ending him up further away from his family.

Somehow I got designated as the contact person for his affairs. I was contacted one morning at about 3:00 AM by a hospital down by the San Fernando Valley that my brother was having a series of mild heart attacks and wanted to know if they should continue treating him or just let him go? During the telephone call, he had a massive heart attack and died. His death certificate listed his cause of death as a heart attack. I later found out that in fact it was a heart attack, but it was caused by gas gangrene because of bedsores because the facility he was in didnt have a bed that moved his muscles like the previous facility had and no one was checking him for bedsores.

I, along, with my sister got the job of cleaning my brothers apartment out before his death. It was the most unbelievable mess you could ever imagine. No animal would ever live that way. It made a hog wallow look sanitary. I would suspect it had a lot to do with his chronic health problems regarding his breathing and maybe even helped bring on his Gullain Barre disease. The filth he lived in was a danger to himself and others in the building he rented.

I dont know why Im telling you any of this, Paul, other than as I read this essay on homelessness [A Crash Course on How to Handle Homelessness] all this started coming back to me about my brother. This fellow that wrote this piece brought up a lot of things my own family experienced with my brother; he also left a lot out. Dealing with mental illness is a tough row to hoe. As a social worker, Im sure you well know that. But what little help there was for my brother was always under assault, and if it wasnt for my parents, my siblings and myself it would have gone a lot harder on my brother.

Maybe thats why I get so incensed by a cocksucker like Jamie Dimon who never worked a fucking day in his life and who gets all butt hurt when someone questions his success. His wealth came at the expense of my brother that couldnt help himself due to circumstances beyond his control by a cocksucker doctor and his Nurse Ratched who totally fucked him up because of the same arrogance Dimon displays. And I do hope the Devil has his arrow- tipped tail up Ronald Reagans ass in an eternal effort to never let Reagan forget the Hell he brought on to a lot of those unable to defend themselves.

Paul Haeder

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The Weeknd Wants to Give the World Philip K. Dick – Rolling Stone

Posted: March 22, 2020 at 1:46 am

Nihilism, cocaine, narcissism, misogyny: These are the things that make a new the Weeknd album a Weeknd album. Predictably, After Hours has them all, and doesnt bother to upend the meticulous mythos the pop star has spent a decade manufacturing. Instead, the Toronto singers fourth studio album swaps out one sonic texture the bleak, Daft Punk-led futurism of 2016s Starboy for the sinister celestial work of Oneohtrix Point Never, while doubling down on what the Weeknd knows best: sex puns.

On the second verse of the aptly-named, Snowchild, the Weeknd sings: She like my futuristic sounds in the new spaceship/Futuristic sex give her Philip K. dick. For those who need clarification, Philip K. Dick was a science-fiction writer who most famously wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel that inspired the 1982 Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner. His last name is also Dick, allowing him to be used as a double entendre in a Weeknd song.

Over the past decade, the Weeknd has fashioned himself as our times great sexual savant, so it makes a certain amount of sense that hed like to introduce the world to futuristic sex to accompany his futuristic sound. However, he spends little time of the rest of Snowchild informing listeners what makes his sex so ahead of its time, or elaborating how it might be similar to a Philip K. Dick story. Does a Philip K. penis leave one with feelings of dystopian dread or teach about the dangers of authoritarianism? Does his dick make you question if youre a human, or perhaps the product of an experiment in technology gone very, very wrong? Will God ever forgive us for what weve done?

The following line, She never need a man, she what a man need, hints that hes possibly speaking of a world where men are useless when it comes to carnal pleasures. But it seems like were already living in that reality. Hopefully, on the next album, well hear more about what sex will be like in the future and we too can all share in some Philip K. dick if there is one.

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Coronavirus, climate crisis, conflicts: Meme-ing our way through the ‘apocalypse’ – The Conversation CA

Posted: at 1:46 am

If you were on social media at the beginning of 2020, the year started as profoundly pessimistic. Instead of a Jetsons-style chrome-coated future of flying cars, we have the COVID-19 pandemic, memes of a third World War and, to top it all off, a continent on fire because of human-induced climate change. And on the internet, all of it was meme-d.

In short, we are beginning a new decade all too aware of our fragility, not only as individuals, but as a species. And yet, we have been here before.

By the middle of the 20th century, humanity had been through two world wars that had unleashed the power of science in a search for ever more efficient ways of exterminating each other. This rapid descent into the possibility of species-ending thermonuclear death prompted the philosopher Karl Jaspers to ask in his 1961 work, The Future of Mankind, how humanity should deal with humanitys ability to end, well, humanity.

But as Rahm Emanuel, one-time mayor of Chicago and former White House chief of staff for Barack Obama, once said: You never want a good crisis to go to waste. Looking around the world, we have an existential crisis.

Read more: Explainer: what are memes?

Humanity, Jaspers observes, is in a unique situation; we are at the dawn of the thermonuclear age. He says that it is an entirely novel scenario for humans to not only to be aware of their mortality but to also be alert to the likely ending of their existence as a species through nuclear war. He argues given this bleak reality:

a prerequisite of everything else, is to think: to look around; to observe what is going on; to visualize the possibilities, the consequences of events and actions; to clarify the situation in the directions that emerge.

We can do this by using our rationality and reason even if, as Jaspers concedes, we cannot plum the ultimate depths. But reason gives us clarity as we experience the calamity of events caused and carried out by humans.

But you might ask: how can you trust reason if its reason that gave us the ability to annihilate ourselves in the first place? Jaspers offers at least two responses.

First, we are easily distracted. Instead of dealing with these ultimate questions, we tend to become preoccupied with other concerns such as economic prosperity.

Second, there is a distinction within how we reason between intellectual thought and rational thought.

Intellectual thought, according to Jaspers, is concerned with the production of the mechanistic parts of our existence where we pool our resources to get things done. (This is similar to an amalgamation of philosopher Hannah Arendts idea of labour and work aspect of life that was outlined in her 1958 work, The Human Condition.)

The activities that fall under intellectual thought would include the production of resources that sustain us (like agriculture) and the construction of structure like roads and buildings that live beyond the person who constructed them. These are necessary activities, but the thought processes behind them thinking largely of our own individual survival cannot lead to solving failures in collective action or the species-level existential crisis we now face.

Jaspers describes rational thought as thinking that must be done by the individual by choice, resolve and action but that creates a common spirit. (Here again, there is a similarity to Arendts concept of action.)

What we need is this category of rational thought not only to reason as individuals, but ultimately, act as a collective in everyday decisions. The recent climate strikes would be an example of that kind of creation of a common spirit. This movement was carried out by individuals who each individually concluded that action must be taken.

Neither hopelessness nor confidence can be proven by rational knowledge. The arguments for despair, deducing inevitabilities from total knowledge, are inadequate, as are the arguments trusting in the victory of common sense. Despair and confidence are moods, not insights. We call them pessimism and optimism. Neither one is open to persuasion; each finds infinite arguments and overlooks the counterarguments. - Karl Jaspers, 1961.

Jaspers is not providing a panacea on the proper response to the realization that our self-destruction is not only possible but likely.

Instead, hes asking us to take radical ownership over the fact that if the world does end or convulses through terrible near-death experiences, we need only look, take a selfie and realize who is to blame. Jaspers demands that each of us has a responsibility to use our rational thought and then act.

It seems clear, however, that, despite the nihilism and pessimism of the memes that erupted over the internet this year, people understand the direness of the situation.

Nihilism requires a deep trauma of belief, meaning nihilists need to start in a state of idealism which is then ground out of them by experience. However, the deep belief is still inherently part of them, and it is that constant juxtaposition that fuels their idealistic resentment and reaction to the objective world around them.

We are reacting like stereotypical teenagers in an era where leadership has come from actual teenagers like Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier. Jaspers advice might contain precisely the wisdom thats required for adults to grow into our maturity. We have taken the first step by recognizing our predicament, but we need to go from wise-guy cynicism of meme culture to earnest action.

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It’s Absolutely Ok to Dump Someone Over Their Awful Pandemic Behavior – VICE

Posted: at 1:46 am

Its stupid at this point to play the remember one month ago!?!? game, but, for these purposes, its worthwhile: One month ago, your partners rugged individualism and unwillingness to read an entire article before weighing in were charming personality quirks; the kind of stuff thats either endearing or aggravating, depending on your mood.

But now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be viewing those traits in an entirely different light. Alexs individuality and and fuck it, lets party!!! nihilism isnt just Alex doing Alex when were talking about social distancing and other necessary precautions. Seemingly personal choices are now a literal matter of life and death, and could reveal a significant difference in values within your relationship, making you wonder if this person is the right match for you. (So many people are facing similar dilemmas, theres an entire website dedicated to documenting quarantine partner drama.)

Maybe you were considering breaking up before you got stuck in an apartment with your partner for the foreseeable future, or maybe being stuck with them has made you realize this isnt working for you. While the ongoing pandemic has slowed (or completely halted) most parts of our lives, this one particular thing doesnt have to be put on hold. You can still end a relationship, provided you can do so safely (more on that later).

Conventional wisdom tells us to not make any big, life-changing decisions during times of increased stress, the idea being that our little brains cant think clearly when were processing intense emotions. But the nature of this unprecedented situation may actually provide necessary clarity. There might be no better way to learn how you want to live your lifeand who you want to share it withthan staring down your own mortality.

Rosara Torrisi, a certified sex therapist based in New York, told VICE that this moment is essentially a compatibility test for a lot of couples, old and new. The coronavirus pandemic is going to reveal not just how they respond to this specific situation, but also how they might deal with other rough life moments. Being in a high-stress moment for a long period of time in a relationship thats gonna happen, Torrisi said. Whether its COVID[-19], or someone getting really sick, losing money, or losing a job, theres a million ways that you will be stressed in a long-term relationship. This is one of those moments.

The way individuals react to a stressful situationand react to each others reactionsis a fairly big part of their overall long-term compatibility. And if those responses are drastically differentperhaps you skew more doomsday prepper, while your partner is more Margaritaville-chillin, stocking up only on weed and video games and telling you to calm downand lead to problems, thats important information to have. Are you cool being with someone who will never be freaking out along with you, or who you think is constantly overreacting?

Alternatively, Torrisi points out that extremely similar ways of coping might be just as bad. Lets say two partners are together and theyre exceptionally anxious and following the news, just kind of amping each other up; thats not really helpful, either, she said. That can be harder to spot, because it typically feels good when someone agrees with you and eggs you on. But if youre getting a nagging sense that the person youre with is not bringing out the best in you, its worth paying attention to that feeling.

The actual logistics of managing a break up right now are where things get a little trickier. If your partner is simply a pain in the ass who you no longer want to be with but can tolerate for a while longer, and youre already secure in your pandemic bunker, Torrisi said you may just want to stay put. If your safety is still intact, you always have to prioritize that, she said.

For the actual breakup, its important to try maintaining the peace in your pandemic bunker. To do that, Torrisi recommended having a radically empathetic conversation. Even if you find your partners behavior to be batshit and wrong, trying to understand it will lead to a calmer conversation than holding up an empty box of rigatoni and screaming, HOW DID YOU ALREADY EAT ALL OF OUR PASTA, YOU FREAK, THIS IS EXACTLY WHY WE CANT BE TOGETHER!!!!

Even if you disagree, you might have a better understanding of where they are coming from, Torrisi said. And then you can say, OK, I understand why, I can empathize with it, but I completely disagree with it. It makes it really clear for me that your decision making is not something I can get on board with, or that I want to be a part of long term.

If youre currently sharing a space and youre worried your partner may harm you if you try to break up with them, but you cant currently go to a shelter or family members house, an appropriate alternative would be to find a friend who lives within walking distance, and will agree to hunker down with you for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline are equipped to help you, even during a pandemic when theres limited mobility.

The TL;DR here is this pandemic sucks hard enough without adding the unnecessary pressure to stay in a bad relationship into the mix. DTMFA, and soothe your pains with one of your favorite rations.

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