All posts filed under: Ideas & Short Essays

Mister Zuck goes to Washington

So pundits and politicians are up in arms about Facebook exposing our data. My question: what did we expect, exactly? Is there anyone still naive enough to believe that corporations are working for the best interest of the public? Did we expect that Facebook would forego the pursuit of profit and make the public good it’s sole priority? I suspect that most of us, the common folk, aren’t as worked up as the columnists and the talking heads on TV. We follow the money. We know why Facebook exists, and it isn’t for some hippie purpose of making the world a better place or to bring the world closer, as Facebook puts it in their mission statement.

Teachers Strike…in The Twilight Zone

So teachers are striking, apparently they want a living wage or something. In any event, it raises a few tricky questions. Why is it that some of the most valuable work has the least monetary value in a capitalist society? Why do so many teachers fail to make a living wage? Why does “the market” (so-called) reward so many who are doing things that do nothing to better society, while so many teachers get crap for wages? These are questions you cannot ask….in the Twilight (of Capitalism) Zone….  

“Not a puppet, not a puppet”

No one wants to be a cog in the machine. That’s one of the values that we post-Baby Boomers were taught. We were encouraged to pursue our passions, to follow our dreams, and to be our true selves. Americans are especially enamored by individuals who buck convention to pursue their own idea of freedom. We idealize the cowboy on the open plain, the pioneer forging ahead into the frontier, and yes, even the hippie. Whether it’s The Dude abiding or Clint Eastwood riding into town with one hand on his holster, our greatest heroes are not cogs in a machine. Yet most of us are cogs in the machine. The economic system of capitalism flourishes from such cogs, from the “yes man” who dutifully follows orders within a massive, impersonal corporation. Clint Eastwood isn’t the corporate type.

Guns don’t kill people

I found myself engaged in a good discussion on gun violence, hosted by fellow Alaska blogger Pete, a dude who lives in an off the grid cabin, year-round. It’s interesting to discuss guns with fellow Alaskans. As a non-urban, rural-living person, I’m more than a little sympathetic to the concerns of subsistence hunters. There’s a good discussion that you can check out here:  One of the talking points that goes around is “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Or as Del put it, in the comment section of the above-linked discussion: Well Jonathon [sic] I get your point but really come on, the gun doesn’t kill its the person pulling the trigger its an object like a vehicle or whatever.

The for-profit business of shooting our students

I was recently having a conversation on Facebook with a conservative woman about gun control and school shootings. She gave me the typical nonsense: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Being a writer and not wanting to miss the chance to one-up a cliche with a more truthful turn-of-phrase, I responded by saying that yes, guns do kill people because gun violence is impossible without guns. I went on to say that among developed nations, America had a fairly unique gun violence problem. We can’t continue with business as usual and keep watching students get gunned down. Something needs to change. The conservative responded immediately by posting the Israel teacher meme, it’s a pic of an Israeli teacher standing behind a group of kids with an assault rifle slung over her shoulder. Do we really want that for our schools and for our kids? Most Americans don’t, but if we armed teachers, that sure would be good for gun manufacturers. Profits would boom, stock prices would soar, and the money would come rolling in.

What’s in a meme? Or, How to be as big a deal as Socrates

I recently went under the knife, so to speak, for a vasectomy, rendering myself sterile, incapable of reproducing offspring. I bucked my biological drive to procreate, I resisted my natural evolutionary drive to replicate my genes. Or did I? A part of me would like to think that I resisted millions of years of evolutionary biology. In itself, that would be quite the accomplishment in life, at least as far as I’m concerned, but I know better. For all of my adult life, I’ve had a general sense that I wanted to leave behind something else, and frankly having kids would get in the way of such schemes. It’s an instinct that many writers, artists, thinkers, and other outliers have in common, and there’s a good reason for this. The reason is not in the genes, it’s in the memes.

Socialized medicine, at a glance

Since 2016 there has been one long, continuous groan from cultural critics — across the political spectrum — who view the Presidency of Donald Trump as a dumbing down of the American public. On a more personal note, I have my own concerns, for my own mind. It’s so damned easy to debunk Trump that, speaking for myself, I fear intellectual sloth. A recent example: the Trump tweet about the UK healthcare system. Brits took to the streets over their healthcare system, which Trump interpreted as an opposition to the UK system. In point of fact, activists were marching in support of their healthcare. (Trump’s tweet would be a little like someone glancing at a TV headline about the recent Women’s Marches in the U.S. and then assuming that the activists were marching in opposition to women. A simple mistake, for a simple mind.) But the real point here is this: the UK system is far and away better than the United States. It isn’t even close. Last night’s Super Bowl was close. Healthcare is …