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Oakland, CA

Posted By Bakari

My original comment was not meant to imply I don't believe that there are tangible effects on people (most notably unemployment, which is certainly up compared to a few years ago).
All I said was that media and politicians largely made it up.  I think it is a self-fulfilling prophesy to an extent, where in people hear constant messages that times are tight, therefor they cut back on consumption, therefor retail markets fall, therefor manufacturers cut back, and employers start laying people off.  Which fuels the beginning of the cycle even more.  This is why business analysts track "consumer confidence".  In fact, to a large extent it is what the stock market is all about.  Its less a question of how well a company is doing and more one of how popular are they.  If people think its doing well, they buy, which itself drives the stock price up.  It works both ways, so if everyone is convinced the market is doing bad, they sell so they don't lose too much by waiting, and then companies don't have the capital to invest.


I think it is totally unreasonable to adjust what it means to be "poor" based on those around you.
If we did that, billionaires could claim to be poor if those around them are multi billionaires.  In fact, everyone except for the single richest person in the world would be "poor".
Clearly there should be some objective standard of poverty.
I think the only reasonable one is the point at which you have a reasonable fear of not being able to provide the basic necessities for oneself and family.  Food, shelter, clean water.  If you can afford so little food that it affects your health, you can claim to be poor.

It doesn't have to be a "big" car.  If you own a car, you aren't poor.  Period.  Never mind that most people in the world couldn't even afford the up-front purchase price of a car.  Much higher than that in the long run is costs for fuel, insurance, parking and tolls, maintenance, tickets...
For hundreds of thousands of years of human existence even the wealthiest people in the world could not buy cars.
Only in the US do people honestly believe that they are a "necessity".
All over the country people claim to be struggling who are paying for cable TV.  They eat out and buy $2 cups of coffee.  They have cell phones and internet connections.  These are things most people and the world can't afford.  They are not basic necessities.

Supposedly a person in the bay area needs 3 times the federal poverty level in order to live "comfortably"

They take it for granted that everyone needs a car.
And since when does every 6 year old need her own room?!
In the case of the 2nd article, I have no contempt for the person they profile.  She (rightly) considers herself middle class.
(Hopefully, after having been interviewed she doesn't change her own standards).
Now, going into collection, obviously a problem.  Thing is, that is another of those uniquely American things: living beyond your means.


[Due to charcter limit, this essay is continued here: ]

Posted By Bakari

A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being "green" and the recession.

The neighbor with the dead battery is involved with a local semi-official flea market. They are conscious of the fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking for ways to be more so, for example sourcing "plastic" bags made of plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth, government and banks and stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.

This in contrast to interactions with neighbors over the past couple years: the neighbor in the 10ft long trailer who blamed all the countries problems on "the liberals", the neighbor who couldn't see any possible reason to run bio-diesel instead of petrol when it costs more - even when I pointed out that even if he doesn't live long enough to see environmental harm affect his life his kids might, not to mention the narrowly avoided fist fight and the 3 year old who buried his dads meth needle.

Like I have written, its funny that global warming is the thing that finally got peoples attention - even though there isn't hard scientific evidence that human activity will change it in a significantly more dramatic way than the natural climate cycles already do - when we have known for many decades that our use of resources is totally unsustainable.
But whatever. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than not doing the right thing at all.

Now combined with economic changes, ideas I have been thinking about all my life are becoming more and more popular. What will life be like after the credit based economy has its debts called in, and we no longer have the capacity to exploit natural resources at an unsustainable level, (as is absolutely vital for the American way of life as we know it)?
Of course there were always others who imagined it coming someday, with varying levels of serious - movies like Six-String Samurai on the one end, cults and militias on the other.
But now I am finding it everywhere.
The Gubbins Experiment, a blog I read about a guy who has given up not only driving, but also accepting rides in any motor vehicle for a year, wrote his most pessimistic post ever. My boss, a small business owner with a contract with BART to run the BikeStation seemed to imply that the end of civilization as we know will happen within the next 20 years, and that it will hit dramatic and fast when it does. I met my most recent friend in part via (literal) dreams of a post-apocalyptic future.
And now, even here in the trailer park, people are thinking in global terms about sustainability and economics.

Contrast it also to discussions I have had recently with some single issue activists, who I found by and large narrowly focused on not just one issue, but one side of one issue, unable or unwilling to consider other points of view, ignoring historical and current contexts that don't support a pre-determined conclusion, and offering more criticism than real solutions.

Maybe I had it wrong all along.

Maybe it is the general public, the random ordinary everyday people in whom our potential salvation rests.
That is the most encouraging possibility I have come across in many years.

Posted By Bakari

A friend of mine insists that I seem really gay (despite this friend being female, and us sleeping together).
As evidence she questioned someone I had just met, who agreed that whatever I was, she doubted it was straight.
As I found this more than a little strange, I proceeded to ask other people if they thought that when they first met me.
Responses mixed, but I was surprised to find some people agreed with their assessment.

The reasons I got included: that I seem comfortable with myself and others, in my own skin (mind you, I was in my own home at the time), and that I am not a sleazy slimeball.

I definitely consider those both to be very positive (and, I like to imagine, accurate) things to say about me, but it leaves an absolutely terrible implication for like, all straight men everywhere. 
Like, (aside from gay guys and me), they are all fake, all of the time (or at least around women), always trying to show off or prove something, I suppose, or one way or another acting (presumably for the chance to have sex with everyone they meet).
I have a lot of trouble believing that.

Having an inside pass, I do know that this is terribly common.  Disturbingly common.
But if it is perceived to be universal...
Perhaps this is why nice guys finish last.  Women perceive guys who are just regular, decent human beings as all being gay.

When I was younger I used to believe that everyone is naturally bi, and it is only social conditioning that makes us suppress it.  I was raised in an extremely liberal household by an openly bi former hippy who was totally honest and through in education on all topics. 
(A note for the anti-sex-ed folk: nothing can make sex less appealing to a young person than hearing about it in detail from one's mother.  Statistics show that repressive communities have a far higher teen birth rate.  I on the other hand waited until 21, and then only because the other person insisted).
I grew up not just watching but participating in the gay parade.  It was a while before I understood that a certain anonymous alcohol recovery support group was not in fact specifically for the LGBT community.  Many of my best childhood memories was of Camp Lavender Hill, where every kid was from a LGBT family.  So I was open-minded.
Then I got the opportunity to test the theory.
Turns out I was wrong.
It just doesn't do it for me.
Not at all.
Even years later, I tell myself I "should" be more open-minded.  Nothing can make me lose interest in sex faster than watching gay porn.

I am neutral on the gender tests I have taken, and I'm proud of that.  I may act effeminate by this society's standards - mainly because I am totally oblivious to the standards.  I probably wouldn't act the way I am "supposed to" even if I knew, but the truth is I don't.  When I think about it, I don't see what I could do that wouldn't be a blatant caricature of what it means to be Manly.  I think of flannel, a big belt buckle, beer, and slapping women I barely know on the ass.  I think of constantly challenging other guys to frivolous competitions and asking total strangers for her number on the sole basis of her being "hot".  Who does these things?  How can anyone take them seriously? 

(due to character limit, the conclusion can be found HERE)

Posted By Bakari

Total # of deaths from "swine" flu: 8

Total annual deaths from regular old human flu: between a quarter and a half million.

Turns out this isn't the first panic over "swine flu"

Only 1 person died from swine flu in 1976.  Hundreds of Americans were killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus.

Of course it isn't just about ratings and selling papers. Some of it is human nature.  I think we enjoy panicking.
I understand that people have a hard time taking history into account.  If it didn't happen in one's own lifetime it becomes an abstraction, and therefor not something to learn from.  But "bird" flu was only, what, 3 years ago?  The "global pandemic" of bird flu killed a little over 200 people world-wide over the course of about 5 years. 
Before that was y2k.  It was supposed to shut down every computer, crippling all of modern civilization.
The supposed financial "crises" hasn't even wore itself out, and already we are on to our next one.

I stopped watching/reading "news" a long time ago, and yet somehow I keep hearing about this stuff.
I keep imagining to myself that somehow humanity is going to collectively stop being so stupid.
I know how terribly deluded I am.
I think I should just give in.
Anyone know where I can buy one of those masks?

Posted By Bakari

Happiness is due to outlook, not circumstance.

Psychologists have found that after major life changing events, both positive and negative (examples included winning the lottery and becoming permanently paraplegic), within a few years people tend to return to the same baseline of life-satisfaction they had before.

Stop chasing dreams.

Start appreciating the life around you right now.

Posted By Bakari

These ideas are still brand new to me, still forming, and so will perhaps be disjointed, unclear, contradictory, or incomplete.

I had already been thinking about similar ideas somewhat, and of course elements of it have been recurring themes of mine where philosophy intersected real life for many years.
It was in therapy yesterday that it just began to coalesce, several disparate ideas coming together as part of the same general concept.

I'm starting to think that our core philosophical ideas and outlooks, vague general things which we aren't likely to be conscious of, have enormous effects on real everyday things.

It began because he complemented my progress, how far I had come from the time I started going.
(You no doubt remember the state I was in around the time I first went)
It wasn't so much about being able to be self-reflective, let things go, or make positive changes.
It was about being willing to try.  Being willing to look at myself in the way necessary to do these things, to be honest about my faults.
To me this sounded like a very strange compliment.

There is no courage here.
This is to my own benefit.

I can see how changing implies admitting you aren't perfect already, and if you aren't perfect, then in a sense there is something "wrong" with you.  We don't want to believe there is anything wrong with us, and rather hurt self-esteem (ego, pride) we hold on to our destructive habits and personality traits.

But he suggested that it may be tied in with not just self-esteem, but the very sense of self; with identity.
I have heard this recently.  An unhappy person I spoke to recently said she has  been a mother and a psychiatrist for so long... who is she if she isn't those things anymore? 
He (my therapist) suggested if a person has been depressed their whole life it may become part of their definition of self so that they don't know who they are if they aren't depressed, don't know what to do with them selves I guess.
Perhaps a lot of us type-cast ourselves, and expect everyone else to as well.

I don't understand why we need an identity, what purpose it serves.
I feel, and always have felt, that I am defined as that which is aware of the experiences and sensations which happen to me, that which is doing the thinking.
I look back, and whatever age, whatever stage I was in, it was never "someone else" because I hold memories of that time.  Even if I was different in some ways, no matter how dramatically different, it was me, because I am me.  I am not the collection of my qualities.  I'm just me.  So the concept of "identity crises" (oh my god! I don't know who I am!?!?) seems silly, and the idea of changing who you are does equally so.  You can't change who you are.  You can change opinions, beliefs, preferences, behaviors, but you are still you, and always will be (barring massive head trauma or degenerative neurological disease).


[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

Wait, actually go up and watch the video before you read the following text.

No, really.

Otherwise you’ll ruin it. It’s really short, honest.

OK. I’m going to bet you missed it.
Everyone does.

You’d think something so out of the ordinary would stand out, right?

Their point is that when you are driving you are expecting cars, not bikes, and that you need to be consciously aware of the possibility of bikes, so that you don’t run into them.

I’ve seen this demonstration before, on TV.
In addition they had a person go up to a receptionist. The receptionist said they had to get some papers from under the desk, and when they stood up again, it was a different person.

Sometimes a twin in different clothes, sometimes someone who looked different but in the same clothes.

No one noticed that either.

In addition to reacting to things you don’t notice (like a bike in the street)

This has serious implications for the justice system.

Certainly something like a crime in progress would be a suitable distraction from seeing all the details. Yet the most valued evidence is eye witness testimony.

If there is gunfire and shouting and confusion going on, one of the robbers could be a moonwalking bear, and we might not notice.

Consider the simple optical illusion - usually nothing more than a way to amuse grade schoolers, but it has similar implications about our minds.
The Ancient Greeks were aware of this. When they built the Parthenon, they built it deliberately imperfect - they curved the floor and other lines a tiny bit; exactly enough to compensate for the optical illusion that makes a perpendicular line among a row of straight lines appear curved. So from a distance it appears perfect, but only because of the flaws of human perception.

But even more, consider your own mind and perception.

We usually look at this academically, "people" are like that. "People" have unreliable memories, faulty perception, fail to notice certain details. No, its not just people. Its you. You, reading this right now. Its me. Its individuals, and no one is exempt.

Which begs the question, how sure are you of... well, anything, really? How do you know it’s true?
Of course drugs and insanity and religion make people "know" things which are really not true, but how much of what you remember really happened, or happened exactly the way you think it did?

I wonder if its ever reasonable to be 100% confident.

Trust no one. Not even yourself.