Life is risky

As the memes and cliches say…no-one gets out alive. Life is risky and we’re all gonna die (unlike in the movie “Cocoon” where Wilfred Brimley says “you won’t ever get sick and you won’t ever die” when they find the aliens). Stay on Earth and you will die. Where we seem to be having an argument is over how and when we die and what risks we are all willing to take *before* we die.

Slowly but surely (and I’m very happy about it) the country is opening back up. There are stories from all over about states moving at their own speed and counties within states defying governors and moving at their own pace. Even Cuomo has had to allow some counties in New York to open up faster than, oh, say, NYC. But, with the reopening, some people have reverted or turned to a greater level of fear. It’s hard to tell if they’re afraid of catching the Wuhan flu and dying, or if they are pretty sure Wuhan flu won’t kill them, but will leave them scarred for life. Or, if they even know what they’re arguing for.

Now, people who were pragmatic and skeptical about the lockdown and the reasons behind it, are freaking out at the talk of reopening. I was puzzled at first, but I think I may have figured it out (note, I said *may*. I will not presume to be telepathic). Many of these people were happy to play the devil’s advocate regarding lockdown, but now that the reopening is actually happening, they’re reacting as if their biggest bluff has been called. They were comfortable when they and everybody else was restricted in movement. But, now, with things opening back up and people chafing to get out and back to some semblance of a normal life, they feel like they’re the only ones left who are worried. And, nobody likes being the only one on one side of an argument. So they’re bringing out the big guns to try to get people back into the fold.

The problem with this is that now they’re doing what they’ve railed against previously. They are trying to tell the rest of us that *we* have to adhere to *their* rules because they don’t want to be the only ones following those rules. I’m not sure why the sudden panic about disease when that has not been a primary concern prior to about yesterday. Like I said, the only thing I can figure is that suddenly they’re the last ones left and they never saw everybody else leave. So, they’re mad at the rest of us and getting defensive.

You may ask, how am I arriving at these conclusions? Well, my data source is the purely biased, anecdotal data from Facebook. I kinda sorta monitor my feed for these sorts of things. The kerfuffle over how to reopen has dissolved into a giant kerfuffle into whether each individual action within each step is wise. There’s really nothing overall to fight against. After all, they want to reopen things as well. Again, based on my own personal anecdotal evidence (which does not mean it’s wrong), they seem to like the idea of opening in the abstract, but are extremely fearful in the actual.

I’m still puzzled by all this fear. I guess the media has done a good job in stoking it. But, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to drive out the ability to think clearly. I mean, any semi-rational individual can see that the information we’ve been getting changes rapidly. The rules/guidelines/regulations are less than useful after about two days (and that’s being generous). So, why can’t people follow that? I’m not sure, but I think it may have to do with several factors. The ability to take care of yourself, if you can work from home, that means you can easily avoid others (leaving out that your grocery delivery person is risking their health for you), and you can just hunker down.

All of this completely ignores those who cannot work from home. They’re the ones who need/want to go back to work. So, why do people not see that? How blindered are they?

I’m not sure. All I know is what I said before. Protect the vulnerable populations, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and fucking stay home if you’re sick. I will wash my hands before I come visit you. If you wish me to wear a mask I will do so and sit or stand 6 feet away from you. But you cannot expect me to do the same with every other person. Your requests are not theirs. We are more risk-acceptant than you. Deal.

We need to just open back up and let the Karens fall where they may. Life is risky. Don’t expect me to adjust to your acceptable level of risk and I won’t expect the same of you. We’re all gonna die. Just have a ton of fun between now and then.

Image by Oleksandr Pyrohov from Pixabay

Fear and Karen-ing

The other day I wrote about fear and how it limits us and how we all have to take steps to avoid becoming crippled by fear. This has been on my mind a lot over the last week or so. We have to allow ourselves to think clearly and recognize that life is inherently risky; as adults we take on risk to a level at which we’re comfortable. The problem with disease of course is that the risk I take can put someone else at risk. That’s where taking responsibility for your own actions comes in. If I have family and/or friends in a high risk category, then of course I am going to take what precautions I must before visiting them. That’s only sensible. I also expect those caring for vulnerable populations to take responsibility for protecting those populations…without destroying the rest of us. We have gotten to a point where, somehow, it’s been decided that the only way to protect vulnerable populations is to halt all motion. This is self-destructive. Despite what the media is trying to cram down our throats, coming out of lockdown is not a zero-sum game. In other words, opening back up does not equal certain death.

But there’s another phenomenon that I’ve noticed lately. That is the more subtle, less open “Karen-ing” many are engaging in. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that a “Karen” is someone who demands to speak with a manager whenever things do not go her way. In the era of the Wuhan flu, this has come to include those who call out others for not “obeying” the rules of lockdown…wearing a mask at all times, staying six feet apart, playing on a playground, etc. These individuals take great pride in calling authorities to report what they know to be serious wrongdoing. What I’ve started noticing is the implicit Karen-ing that is happening on social media. I’m not talking about the virtue signaling of posting selfies with you in your mask, or commenting on a photo of the unmasked with comments like “What? No mask?” No, I’m talking about the cutting comments made about posts that may raise questions, or present possible alternate solutions, or question methodologies. This kind of Karen-ing is done via the “well, I’m certainly taking medical advice from amateur epidemiologists” sneering, condescending remark. These comments are as all Karen-ing is, designed to shame the poster or previous commenter into doing a 180 or deleting the post, or otherwise taking a public walk of self-shame.

The reality is that those doing the Karen-ing are shouting out their fear and demanding that the rest of us share in that fear. In all likelihood they are not doing it purposefully. However, given that humans are supremely social animals and have a strong desire to be accepted, there is a voice in the back of their head that is telling them that in order to remain an acceptable member of the group, they must aid in casting out those who question any and all premises the group is founded on.

Try this thought experiment:

Many people are afraid of dogs. They don’t own a dog and they don’t like being around dogs. If they have friends with dogs, those friends usually confine the dog when the dog-fearing are visiting. Or, they visit elsewhere without the dog.

Dog owners do not demand that the dog-fearing get a dog and spend all their time with it.

Nor do the dog-fearing demand that nobody own dogs so that they may go through life never having to face a dog.

Where am I going with this?

If you’re afraid to go out and interact with people under any circumstances, fine. Stay home. Do what you feel necessary.

HOWEVER, do not, under any circumstances, presume to think that I share your fears. If we are friends, trust that I care about you and will respect your wishes when it comes to your personal safety and that of your family. And, understand that I will not accept your strictures on the part of my life that does not involve you.

Opening up the economy is necessary so that we ALL may live and do so with less fear about straight-up survival. It is NOT about us wanting to kill of all old people, or poor people, or people of color (in fact, continued lockdown will eventually kill poor people if you don’t let them work…). The government can indeed hand out more money (which will eventually, and quickly, lose value), but the government cannot make the things you will need to buy with that money (TP, food, gas, pencils).

So, stay home. Work from home. Wear a mask all day, every day. That’s fine with me. But (and here’s the catch) STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME SHARE YOUR FEAR. And for God’s sake, stop being a Karen! Nobody likes a Karen.

I’ll be over here with my dog (when I get one). On the beach. Without a mask.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.


–Frank Herbert, Dune

The Bene Gesserit litany against fear is something that has (sort of) stuck with me ever since I first read Dune. I say “sort of” because I never memorized the whole thing, but I did remember enough to remind myself to not let fear overwhelm me and remove my ability to think and act.

This pandemic and lockdown we’re going through right now has brought this litany back to me once more. I do not consider myself a particularly brave person, but I also like to think that I can face things that might be scary or frightening and still manage to function. Lucky for me, I was correct in my self-assessment. While stories about the spread and destruction of COVID-19 have multiplied faster than the virus has managed to infect people, I believe that I have maintained my cool.

This does not mean I am not concerned about the virus. However, I am becoming more concerned about the economic and other destruction that is being wrought in the name of keeping us free from this illness. The information is confusing, conflicting, and constantly changing (how’s that for alliteration?) Masks are for all; masks should be worn by those showing symptoms; masks are not necessary; wear masks any time you leave your house, even in your own car…you are never immune, oh, wait, yes, those were false positives; it will die down in the heat and humidity of summer…no, it won’t. It will come back worse than before…it will come back less than before…

You get the point. A law in physics says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It seems that in the case of media and government bureaucracy reporting, for every report there is an equal and opposite report. What the hell do you do?

Well, I’ve decided that panic and fear are not going to be in my list of possible reactions. I’m watching friends, who are intelligent people, react in outright fear to any suggestion that the economy should open back up. I had a colleague say, with complete sincerity, that she didn’t think that students should be getting jobs at McDonald’s because that was “just too dangerous”. She then amended that to say, of course, if they needed the money…good grief. There is an absolute lack of understanding as to how the economy and supply chains work. I guarantee, these will be among the first people to lament the lack of food in stores and yet still fail to understand how that happened.

First off, reasonable people should be able to realize that the virus, no matter what we’ve heard about lethality, rapidity of contagion, droplets, etc. is NOT hanging around in clouds just waiting for us unsuspecting humans to walk out of the house and into a virulent cloud of infection. Really, it’s not. If you or someone you know is vulnerable, stay home, wear a mask when you go out, avoid sick people. These are things that immune compromised people have been doing for years…most of them quite successfully. If you are sick…stay the fuck home and don’t drag your sorry ass to work no matter how important you think your presence is; we’ve all done that and it’s stupid. It’s how common colds (a corona virus) float around offices. Why do you think daycares tell parents of sick kids that they cannot drop the kid off at daycare? Why do you think daycares are petri dishes of every random illness known to man? If your kid is sick, keep ’em home. But, because YOU are sick, that does not mean I have to stay home for fear of catching it. It is incumbent on YOU to take precautions not to infect others. If I am vulnerable, it is incumbent on ME to take precautions. It is not incumbent on the whole fucking world to protect you or me.

This is a rambling post, but fear is a rambling thing, I think. Again, I don’t think I’m fearful. Rather, I am concerned. Concerned about food supply chains in the immediate and near future, about the economy tanking so badly it takes a decade or more to get back to where we were in January (hard to believe that four short months ago we were at the top of our game), about mental health issues in general, about possible riots and other unrest as governors tighten the screws just as things seem to be waning.

A protest today around City Hall (or as many locals call it Shitty Hall), was met by counter-protestors several of whom held signs and banners saying “Reopening = Death”. Really? You believe we can stay closed permanently? That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding not only of epidemiology (I’m fairly certain they haven’t been out protesting against business as usual during previous flu seasons or during H1N1 or SARS or Ebola) but also of economics and how life and society depends on being able to do business. The government can give you money, yes, but it cannot make food or toilet paper. Only businesses can do that. And, many of those, and those in their supply chains, are closed. What good is government money if there is nothing to buy with it?

We need to overcome our fear of dying, our fear of illness, our fear of life. We need to recognize that people die. And, please. None of this means I or anybody else advocating for reopening WANTS people to die. What we want is to be given a chance to work towards preventing MORE deaths and preventing more AVOIDABLE deaths. Every death is a tragedy for family and friends. But, believe it or not, the world does not, and cannot, shut down for every single death (and trust me…when my father died I was shocked to walk out of the hospital and find people laughing…did they not understand what had just happened??) Fear of death cannot be allowed to overcome and obliterate everything we do.

Do not let fear become total obliteration.

Face your fear.

Let it pass over and through you.

In the end, only you remain.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Don’t Panic!

Are you panicked about coronavirus yet? Why not?? You should and you shouldn’t. It’s getting more difficult to decide what is overblown panic and what is realistic precautionary information. Should you <b>plan</b> on being quarantined? What if you have to? How do you plan for that? The whole situation is scary, uncertain, and seemingly constantly changing. But, I think with the most recent announcements by the president, namely the collaboration between the private sector and the feds to distribute and conduct the testing for COVID-19 will give us more realistic numbers, and give the number crunchers and those who have to respond to the numbers, far more accurate information. The key to damping down the panic is accurate information and we haven’t had much of that since before China announced that this virus. My plea to everybody is please don’t panic.

It’s a very weird dynamic, I must admit. On FB, I’ve seen a lot of my friends insisting that either we’re so complacent that we will all be dead by Easter and the world will end. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are absolutely certain that the whole thing is a hoax, or at least so completely overblown that anybody saying it’s a bad flu should be ashamed of themselves. My take is that rational people recognize it’s somewhere in-between, but I will say I lean toward the it’s not really as bad as we’re being told it is by the media. Remember, the media, no matter how sophisticated they like to portray themselves as, are governed by the mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, they <b>like</b> the sensational, emotion-inducing headlines. Dramatic pictures of empty store shelves, long checkout lines, etc. These all contribute to that feeling that society is thisclose to collapsing. And they’re gonna be with you every step of the way through that collapse.

My university has gone all on line for classes as of yesterday in response to some of this fear-mongering. We have a week to gear up and become functional in an on line environment. I understand why the decision was made. And, honestly, I’m looking forward to the increased flexibility in my days. But, at the same time, I think that it was something of an overreaction. It came in response to the cancellation of the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA seasons. It’s as if the president and board of trustees said, “Oh, crap. If the NBA is shutting down, we should too.” I mean, between Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night, everything changed dramatically. I’m just happy I’m not in administration and dealing with the logistics of all of this. Now, I just have to record my lectures.

But seriously. It’s a bit surreal. I went out for a long walk this afternoon. There were a lot of people out. Groups of friends, couples, individuals like me. All kinds of people out, living their lives, out and about. Not isolated, not quietly staying inside and avoiding all human contact. The world keeps going, and life goes on. Compare that to the grocery store this morning. Insanely long lines, carts piled high with 10s of things, panic-buying all the things. There was no meat, no frozen anything, and of course, no TP (what the hell is up with that anyway??) But the contrast was telling. Me, I’m going with continuing on with life and not giving in to panic.

Seriously. STOP PANICKING! That is what’s causing so many of the problems. Just stop. We’re not being confined to our homes, we’re not going to lose power or water. Do your usual grocery shopping. Buy your usual amount of TP. Go for a walk. Play with your kids in the park. And, for my students, do your class work. Me, I’m going to keep putting my classes on line, and post reminders to myself to check in with them from time to time (kidding…I’ll be there on line, every day).

OK, so this was a bit of a rambling post. But, please don’t panic. We’ll be fine. Testing is increasing. Trump has done the right thing in partnering with the private sector to get tests out and available to everybody. (I know that a number of my friends will screech at that comment, but it’s true. This is the right thing to do. Try not to let your hatred for the man cloud your judgment on actions taken.)

Take care, stay healthy, wash your hands, and avoid panic.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Plans

Keeping up with writing has gotten away from me. Once again, the busy-work tasks of the semester have taken over. Correction: I’ve allowed them to take over. Starting today, I am following a plan that will keep me on track for writing fiction, taking care of academic work, and spending time taking care of myself. And, spending precious time with my husband. I am really not happy that I allowed writing I enjoy to lie fallow while small, easily accomplished tasks were allowed to take over, become high priorities, and create the usual stress.

I say “usual stress” because I’ve found myself getting upset and stressed over the same-old same-old. When I’m angry and feeling boxed in I tend to hold conversations in my head with those who are blocking me or antagonizing me. These conversations do serve to get out some points, remind me of issues that I can bring up, and otherwise allow me to vent. However, they also, in a weird (or maybe not, I don’t know) way cause more stress because I recognize that I’m never going to have those conversations in real life. It can be frustrating to know that the very excellent points you know need to be made are unlikely to see the light of day.

All of this leads me to neglect the work I really like to do since I feel like I really have to take care of all these little things before they become big things. This leads me to get more frustrated. So, the plan. This weekend, hubby and I decided that we are going to turn off the TV and other distractions at least two evenings a week so that he can look for a new job and I can write, edit, read, or work on covers. Anything, EXCEPT worrying about current tasks etc. We’re still working on the whole, plan not goals idea, but I think we’re getting there. There is no doubt that this time next year we will be elsewhere. That’s the plan.

One (pretty big) part of this plan is to write/post here on a regular basis. The plan now is for twice a week minimum. In addition to the ramblings of an ornery dragon, I am planning on posting some short stories and flash fiction.

Thanks for listening and happy Monday. It’s the start of a new week!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Life. Damn.

Saturday night my upstairs neighbor died from an overdose of heroin with fentanyl. His mom and girlfriend had spent the afternoon and evening trying to locate him and then, that night, found him dead in the apartment. Absolutely tragic. Our landlord is a neighbor and friend and we ended up spending about two hours outside on the sidewalk drifting between stoops with one of the other upstairs neighbors, and the next-door neighbors. The conversation ranged from the trivial, as we tried to take our minds off of things, to the immediate. Turns out my landlord’s sister died from an overdose and my other neighbor’s brother had serious abuse issues (thankfully still alive). We all thought about family and friends as we watched the mom deal with the sudden (although clearly not unexpected) loss of her son. I thought about how grateful I am that I have not had to deal with this level of addiction in my own family.

Drugs are obviously life-altering in ways both good and bad. Good drugs can cure cancers, overcome diseases, wipe out diseases and allow millions of people to go about their daily lives unencumbered. Bad drugs send people into imagined utopias of no pain and no problems, provide unimaginable highs that require ever higher doses to achieve and maintain all while destroying the brain and body. Drugs and their life-altering affects are often the subject of science fiction stories with outcomes alternating between relieving a dystopian existence or bringing down a utopian one. In the end, all the stories return to the theme that yes, indeed, too much of a good thing can become bad. As with all mind- and body-altering substances there is a required balance. Medical people will often say, the line between cure and poison lies in the dose. But heroin? I’m not sure there is anything but poison there.

Other drugs remind me of snake-oils sold throughout history. Right now, a friend is becoming involved in an MLM selling extremely diluted human growth hormone gel on the argument that it helps you lose weight and repairs a number of other issues associated with aging, etc. She gave me a bottle (which I discovered retails for about $170!!) for me to try. I am extremely leery of anything like that and did a quick bit of research on the active ingredients. My conclusion? Uh, no thanks. Not even going to try it. The attraction of no-work weight loss and getting in shape is huge for many people. The quick fix with no sweat. I want to keep living my life exactly as I do now, just without the belly fat. Well, I would too. However, I know that there is work involved in getting rid of the unwanted belly fat. But, I am unwilling to risk my near- and long-term health for the quick fix. The bottle and a warning about what I found is going back to my friend. I’m hoping she gives this up.

I have a couple stories floating around in my head that involve the sort of “cure-all” drugs that are found in science-fiction and in our current world. What happens when too many people get hooked on the idea that a simple drug can provide the answer to all their problems? What happens when potentially debilitating or even fatal side-effects are ignored or not discovered until much later? Quick weight loss fixes that don’t stop even when you stop taking the drug? Mental and energy enhancements that propel a person beyond human endurance and capabilities? The warnings came as early as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. We need to heed those warnings still.

My apologies for rambling, but this weekend’s activities have put me a bit on edge. The roommate of the late upstairs neighbor has not yet returned from the beach (she does know what happened), and it’s not clear what will happen in the near future for her. I don’t know about you guys, but no way could I continue to live there. It’s been a weird few days. I sincerely hope my late neighbor has found peace.

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Don’t be crazy

I’ve seen the comment “all the Democrats had to do was not act crazy and they can’t even do that” several times on Instapundit. It’s completely accurate. The latest kerfuffle for Ds comes from the so-called “Squad”. Four of the newest representatives who are now presenting themselves as the face of the Democratic party: Ilhan Omar, AOC, Rashid Talib, and Ayanna Pressley. Omar is on record with multiple anti-Semitic remarks. She’s gone well beyond simply criticizing Israeli government policy as many have argued. She’s made flat-out anti-Semitic comments. Talib has said, on a radio show no less, that she is comforted by the thought of the Holocaust. Really?? AOC has compared the holding facilities at the southern border with the Nazi concentration camps. Problem with that comparison is that nobody in those holding facilities is a U.S. citizen who has been deprived of rights, property and liberty, and shipped off to a camp. That may seem like a fine line to some, but it’s a huge freaking difference if you’re honest with yourself and if you actually have an understanding of the history of WWII and the Holocaust. It’s disingenuous at best and disgustingly ignorant and yes, anti-Semitic, at worse.

Why do I bring this up? I’m teaching a class on genocide and politics in the fall and I have to teach American politics in the spring. I know these issues will arise and students will question things. It’s important to remember what happened in WWII and to never allow it to happen again. The detention centers on our southern border are most emphatically not “concentration camps.” Are they luxurious accomodations? No. Are they comfortable? Probably not that much. Are they necessary? Well, sadly, yes. I am not sure why both US citizens and those arriving on our border seem to expect that they can simply walk in and make themselves at home. No country allows that kind of immigration. Even Germany has returned to closed borders after the fiasco of 2015 when they allowed one million refugees into the country without any sort of vetting or processing. It was a nightmare. Go look up the rapes and assaults in Cologne and the comments by the mayor of that city (a woman) saying that women needed to be careful what they wear so that they don’t get assaulted. Victim-blaming at its finest.

The Democratic Party has tried to paint Trump as the perpetrator and cause of all the issues now confronting us, including the nasty political commentary and anything they can think of. The reality is that as Instapudit writers have noted, all they had to do was not act crazy and they can’t even do that. They have fallen for Trump’s rather clever Twitter trolling. They cannot resist the bait. The thing is, by responding, they are falling for his trap and are saying out loud what they’ve never said in sunlight before. They’re contradicting themselves every time he tweets.

Take the latest kerfuffle he generated with his tweet saying that some “Progressive Congresswomen” should go back to those countries they came from, fix them, and then come back here and let us know how they did it. Please note, he never named anybody, Dems did that. He did say “come back and show us how you did it”. Dems ran with the “all but one of those women were born here.” Again, he never named names…Dems did that. They fell for that hook, line, and sinker. Conservatives have checked their virtue boxes by publicly noting that they found the comments racist. They declared that he should have let them destroy themselves and not said anything and that now Pelosi was compelled to defend the Squad. They skipped over many of the same things…including the fact that Pelosi does NOT want the Squad to be the face of the Democratic Party. What Trump has done with his tweet and response has been to force Democrats to publicly, in daylight, either accept the crazy or deny it. They can no longer pretend it doesn’t exist.

Pelosi will have to do something if she wants to continue to lead her party. She will have to shut down the Squad or at least figure out a way to discredit them or even better (for her), allow them to discredit themselves. As it stands now, the Democrats are self-destructing in a most spectacular fashion.

As we move into the second half of 2019 and politics ramps up for 2020 (damn we have an insanely long lead time), I’m going to invest in popcorn futures and sit back and watch the show. It’s gonna be fun!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Rough week

We got back from Oregon on Monday after a red-eye flight. Hubby had to go to work on Monday morning after we got home. That totally sucks. I’m very grateful that I didn’t have to do anything more demanding than walk down to Whole Foods and figure out things for dinner for the next two nights. And, I even managed to work in some book editing. Win-win!

So, we noodled through the rest of the week. I had to spend 4 hours at Mazda getting the car serviced and updated for the next year’s registration/inspection. Yay. I didn’t expect to spend four hours there, but I did get a lot of work done, so I’m grateful for that. I’m certain that I would not have spent a straight four hours working if I had been sitting at home. So, I got that going for me.

The cats were following me around the house this week as well. It’s difficult to get work done when a cat insists on leaning on your arm and wrist so you can’t use that hand. I get it. We lost Fritz a couple of weeks before we left, then we were gone for 10 days. So, I was followed around the house. The rough part came on Friday night. We were sitting watching TV when Flash fell over in a seizure. Before we could even process that, he died. Two cats gone in two months. This totally sucks. Crystal, the now only-cat, is 17 years old. We’re seriously willing her to hang on for at least another year. I don’t think I can take it if I lose another (and the last) cat int he next couple of months. I think my stress levels would go through the roof. Definitely don’t need that.

One of the other things I did last week was head into campus to have lunch with our summer research group. The benefit to that was seeing people I like and haven’t seen in a couple of months. The downside was being on campus brought back all the stress I thought I had left behind. I was reminded in blinding color about my failed attempt to get promoted, as well as the frustrations of taking students abroad. When I got home and started going over things I needed to do, I found myself having those conversations we all wish we could have in real life. For me, these are not stress-relievers, but rather stress- increasers. I really don’t like it when I catch myself responding to issues that are either over, or have been shoved aside. It tells me I’m not happy with the outcome, but at the same time, there’s not a lot, if anything, I can do about the outcome. I’m just chewing on it. Not a good thing. This is one big reason I don’t want to stay in academia. Where I used to feel excited and that I could make a difference in the lives of students or at least expose them to new ideas and concepts, now I just get stressed thinking about how many ways the administration can make those things extremely difficult if not impossible to carry out.

So, yeah. We’re hear for another year. I’ll figure out my EU sim trip when necessary. I’ll deal with things as they come up. Hubby has promised that this time next year we will be out of Philly and somewhere else. That sounds very good to me. My first book will be available on Amazon Kindle Unlimited in August. I promise. Meanwhile, I am going to edit, finish the book, send it to beta readers, prep my classes, keep writing, and keep moving forward.

Have a good week, everybody. Go out and move forward!

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

Compassion vs. viewpoint

Compassion is not simply vehement expression of a point of view.
Theodore Dalrymple.

I ran across this quote last year (school year) at some point and it struck me as immensely simple and yet it captures something that we as a society often ignore. The loudest voices crying out about conditions of migrants on our southern border (this is the topic that seems to bring it out the most. OK, and homelessness on occasion) have never been to the border nor are they among those donating on a regular basis to organizations working there. It’s not easy to visit the border, and you cannot simply visit a migrant ICE camp/detention center. Many, if not most (please note, I did not say all…) of those making snarky, highly disapproving comments, or posting the latest meme du jour, are doing so only to “prove” that they are compassionate, loving people. However, simply screaming that this is a terrible thing, that these are terrible conditions does not make one compassionate. It makes one loud, and deaf to any possible solutions beyond “Don’t do it that way!”. So, what can be done? I’m not asking for or suggesting that I have solutions to the border crisis (it must be one now since CNN has finally used the word “crisis.”) Rather, I’m asking or talking about how does one deal with the loud, yet inactive, compassion-mongers?

Pointing out that such conditions have existed on our southern border for at least 10 years does no good. The vehement expression folks on both ends of the political spectrum prefer that such conditions be the fault or creation of “those guys”, not “us.” Politicians are too busy using (and essentially maintaining) deplorable conditions for their own benefit. Re-election bids, fundraising, again…pointing out how compassionate they are (while voting down some bills because the other party sponsored it and by God they are not going to “betray” their constituents by voting for something “they” created!)

I argue that this turn towards “vehement expression of a point of view” has resulted in the virtue-signalling culture we see on TV, on social media, and hear from celebrities and politicians. “See? I’ve noticed this and I don’t like it. OK, I’m done.” It’s useless and pointless, except that it keeps Twitter from banning you and YouTube from demonitizing you and your friends, followers and fans from abandoning you as a do-nothing loud-mouth. The same virtue signallers are also the very same people who often and frequently call out those who do not do the same. Or, they jump on some small, insignificant comment, word use, or whatever, to deflect from your actual point and to deflect from the fact that they got nothing in response. My cousin actually did this to me last week. I used “they” to refer to a group that had been under discussion for at least 10 minutes, and he had to jump in with “Now, don’t say “they” it’s not all of that group.” I looked at him and said, “That’s not what I said. It should be clear from the context of this conversation that I am referring to the group under discussion for the last ten minutes.” He just nodded, but at least he quit with the virtue signalling. But then, it’s what he does. Fortunately, he doesn’t do it often. But, I do think I was the first in the family to call him on it.

Another way people do the “vehement expression” thing is to put signs in their windows and bumper stickers on their cars. You know the ones…you see them all over. Not just “Black lives matter”, or “Blue lives matter”, but those “Hate has no home here”. Those signs. Those views are obviously important to those individuals, but why must it be announced to the world? Is it not enough to know that you don’t hate? Or that you don’t support police brutality? Or that you do think the police are not all evil? Why is it so important to be publicly vehement in the expression of your point of view? How have you diminished the problem with your bumper sticker?

I try to deal with or shut down virtue signalling with comments like my response to my cousin or the simple question of “Well, what do you propose?” That forces those doing the calling out to think about solutions rather than scream about the problem without offering any alternatives. Of course, the signaller may simply continue screaming as they actually have no answers or suggestions and do not want to admit that. Coming up with coherent responses involves thought and too many people avoid that as too much work.

Vehement expression/virtue-signalling does not advance the conversation, nor does it create any workable solutions. It’s designed to make the speaker look good in their own eyes (see, I said I don’t like it, that makes me a good person), and in the eyes of those they seek to impress (whether that actually works is up for debate). I try to pay attention to what I say when I express an opinion or a point of view and make sure that I can actually back up my opinions with facts. I also try to make sure my compassionate view can be supported by compassionate work (this is more difficult, but it’s more effective than simply getting louder).

In the end, yes, you can feel compassion about issues you can not immediately affect. However, to be a compassionate person, you need to do more than yell louder or unfriend someone or change your FB profile picture. You need to act with compassion where possible. Respect people and start from the idea that they mean well and are doing their best. Don’t make assumptions about their motivations or otherwise. Let them show it in their actions themselves.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Friends

It’s been a week. In that time, I’ve done…what? Write, edit, read. All good. We did have to say good-bye to our feline buddy, Fritz. He was one of those cats who, when you looked at him, nodded his head and gave a silent meow, as if he was saying “s’up? How you doing?”. He was a totally cool dude and I will really miss him. Hubby was hit hard. Fritz is buried in the back yard along with Junior Basement Cat (a.k.a. Junior), and Little Bit. Just between us, don’t go into the back yard on Halloween!

It’s also been a learning week for me. I have al ot of friends who understand what it’s like to lose a pet. Not only that, there are an equal number of people I’ve only interacted with online who also understand what it’s like. The support both groups have given is simply amazing. You’d think that people might be less than supportive when you say your cat died. I know that I sympathize, but I’m always astonished that others feel as strongly as I do about losing a pet. It’s always eye-opening for me. I’m not sure why, but I guess I always expect people to say “well, it was just a cat…” but they don’t. They tell me stories about their cats, tell me that when their pet goes they will be equally devastated, all sorts of things. It’s always amazing and always leaves me feeling much better about humanity in general.

Another thing Fritz’s death has given me is more awareness of my quirks and supposed coping mechanisms that isn’t all that successful. I’ve realized that when I’m stressed I mess around and don’t do anything of any consequence. I was upset about losing Fritz-man. I procrastinated on Facebook and played Candy Crush. i did do some work, but not as much as I should have or wanted to. I couldn’t seem to concentrate enough to get anything done. There’s no real excuse for that. Working for myself, depending on my writing means I have to write even when I don’t feel like it. There’s no getting around that.

I did do work later in the week and I’ve been reading some useful stuff this week. I highly recommend Janice Hardy’s books “Understanding Show, Don’t Tell” and “Understanding Conflict” for anybody doing any writing at any point. These are invaluable. I read “Show, Don’t Tell” I’ve started back through my book and I’m rewriting sentences and paragraphs. I can already see the difference. I’m working my way through with all of Hardy’s key words/red flag words. It’s time consuming and tedious at times. But totally worth it. I just started “Understanding Conflict” and already I’m getting some good ideas on how to rework some scenes and some general story arcs to up the tension for the reader and the conflict for the characters. This is hella lot more fun than revising academic work, that’s for sure!

This post started out about friends. We psent this afternoon with friends hanging out at the beer garden/food truck spot/whatever, on the river bank. It was a nice day for hanging out with the dog, drinking beer, and watching the leftover Pride Parade folks wander by. Everybody was in a good mood, the sun was shining, and my friend’s dog got a lot of attention so we were quite popular. We all got to catch up, and talk to other people. A good way to end this week and begin next week. I’m very grateful we had this afternoon to catch up and hang out.

Tree trimming people coming tomorrow which means the day will be interrupted, so I need to be organized early in the morning so that I don’t lose too much time. I will lose time, but since I know that’s going to happen I can figure out how I’m going to make up for it. I’ll work it out.

Have a good week all!

Image by Sarah Bolden from Pixabay