Sunday, April 30, 2023

Quiet Comprehending

A pretty song for our times form Bo Burnham

Female Colonel Sanders, easy answer, civil war
The whole world is at your fingertips, the ocean at your door
The live-action Lion King, the Pepsi Halftime Show
Twenty-thousand years of this, seven more to go . . . 
That unapparent summer air in early fall
The quiet comprehending of the ending of it all . . .
Hey, what can you say? We were overdue.
But it will be over soon. You wait. 
A blogger buddy, "Mound" told me about Deep Adaptation and Dark Mountain ten years ago, and I thought it was all a little extreme. But now I'm at a weird place in which the people I once thought were completely off the wall, I now understand as prescient. Alternatively, it's entirely possible I have merely joined them in their lunacy. One or the other, and I'm not always confident of which. The fact that I still think Covid is enough of a concern that I'm provoked to wear a mask everywhere and refuse dinner invites puts me pretty squarely in the latter camp by many people's estimation. Most of my friends, definitely, but luckily not my children. Yet. 

Four years ago I wrote that all that Dark Mountain doomer stuff was a bit much because, "what if it's not all over, and there's still time to do something?!"

But then last Friday, the CO2 on our little planet hit 425 ppm for the first time in human history. That's considered a vital sign by NASA. It was just 420 last month. Previously, it was in the 200 range for thousands of years, and hit 300 in the 1950s. Keeping it below 350 ppm was a goal for a long time. MIT says that we need to stay below 430 ppm if we hope to avoid overshooting the 1.5° rise in temperature.

This should be front page news, but it's not.  

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Social Darwinism and "Useless Eaters"

Some people are arguing that the removal of mask mandates in hospitals is a form of eugenics. Tamara Taggart, President of Down Syndrome BC, said on "This is Vancolour," 

"This is eugenics, like 100%. So now we don't care about people. . . . All those people are expensive. I mean, it's a harsh thing to say, but it is true. . . . My kid with a disability, he's expensive in the grand scheme of things. A disabled person in the hospital? They're expensive. So why else would we remove masks? Elderly people at long-term care facilities? They're expensive!"

That's about $400,000 in today's USD.

In an older Tyee article, currently recirculating, "My Daughter Shouldn't be Sacrificed to 'Get Back to Normal,'" Laesa Kim writes,

"Our family has learned more about ableism and eugenics throughout this pandemic than we should have. We have witnessed both individuals and institutions shrug as COVID more heavily affects marginalized communities.  . . . Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Good Morning America that 'the overwhelming number of deaths of vaccinated individuals, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four co-morbidities. So really these are people who were unwell to begin with and yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.' This is eugenic. . . . Public health directions are subtly promoting the same thought: It is fine to allow a virus to spread through the population, largely unchecked and unchallenged, because the assumption is that is will only kill certain demographics of people." 

And I also used that term originally in the title of a recent post, "At What Point is Inaction a Form of Eugenics??," showing the similarity between our dismissiveness of the disabled and elderly and children now and the experience of gay men with AIDS in the 80s. 

But then I changed it. It's not quite eugenics as we think of it now. It's potentially genocidal

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Chris Hedges on Our Current State of Paralysis

Hedges writes on Substack now, if you haven't been able to find him lately, and his piece today is excellent. 

He starts by pointing out the growing rich-poor divide that is seeing the top earnings increase by almost 90% in the last decease in the states, while the lowest struggle to find an apartment they can afford. The government is doing nothing about poverty, climate, infrastructure, health care, and violence by police or fearful neighbours. He says, 

Democracies are not slain by reactionary buffoons like Donald Trump, who was routinely sued for failing to pay workers and contractors and whose fictional television persona was sold to a gullible electorate, or shallow politicians like Joe Biden, whose political career has been devoted to serving corporate donors. These politicians provide a false comfort of individualizing our crises, as if removing this public figure or censoring that group swill save us. Democracies are slain when a tiny cabal, in our case corporate, seizes control of the economy, culture and the political system, and distorts them to exclusively serve its own interests.

This analysis helps to explain how many corporations have so easily walked us back to pre-New Deal years, stripping away workers' rights, ignoring environmental regulations, focusing on basic facts while eroding the critical thinking of the humanities in public schools and universities, and removing useful health protections in hospitals. We're already not a democracy, as Hedges has said for years, invoking Wolin's inverted totalitarianism. Today he quotes research from professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Earth Day #53: Simple Solutions

As a social science teacher talking about climate change, I'd often get students who raise the fact that there are just 100 companies, worldwide, producing over 70% of all GHGs. Therefore, they reason, if we petition or protest or rally to shut down those 100 companies, then climate change will be over! It's a very simple solution, and it would be great it if worked. But it won't.

First off, we experience a lag time between mitigations and effects, so even if we stop producing GHGs on a dime, things will continue to get worse from all the things we did yesterday. And climate change is in the works already hitting tipping points and likely unable to completely stop or reverse, but it will slow down the effects, for sure, so we should definitely do all we can. 

Next, let's look at what those companies do. Most are in the fossil fuels business, which we should keep in the ground as much as possible, but if we shut it all down today, how will you heat your home or take a bus or buy a new phone or anything with plastic in it or get food that isn't grown within cycling distance? It's all so integrated and complex and global that it takes a while to get everyone to understand that things won't change without it affecting us significantly. We also have to change the way we live. We can do that right now, but it would definitely be easier with government mandates, and subsidies in the right direction, and an authentic, global unified path that comes with consequences if ignored. 

So then I get this argument: It's just the rich people that need to change how they live. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Forced Exposure in Hospitals

If you're feeling unwell, McMaster is advising you to NOT go to a hospital because they no longer require masks there, and they don't want people in there spreading their diseased germs around. Wha...?? Some doctors and nurses are excited to ditch their masks, despite the potential harm that could come to their patients. 

Of course this message blatantly ignores the over 30% of people who have an asymptomatic case and have no idea that they're carrying and spreading a brain-invasive vascular disease, which is how it spreads so brilliantly and why masks are so useful just in case!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Transphobia is the New Homophobia

Natalie Wynn, one of my favourite YouTubers, came out with a 2-hour long video, basically a feature-length film, her first in 10 months. This one is on J.K. Rowling, whom she discussed two years ago (and I wrote about here if you need to catch up on the controversy). 

This time she goes further into the connections between the homophobic and transphobic movements, comparing Anita Bryant in the 70s to Rowling now, to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I remember Bryant's commercials for orange juice from my childhood and my parents' reaction to her religious campaign to save children from the gays: Religion shouldn't be used to perpetuate hatred against a group of people; that misses the whole point! Bryant's argument is that gay people get special privileges if they are given extra rights (like, to live free from discrimination) that go against the rights of "normal Americans," and since they can't procreate, they "reproduce through recruitment." They hold hands in public to get your children to try to join them!! 

But then Bryant was blacklisted for "defending children from being recruited by homosexuals" and lost her job as spokesperson with Florida Orange Juice. Wynn questions, Was she cancelled?? Or was she just reaping the consequences of being a bigoted person in a progressive society?

Wynn looks more deeply at Bryant's effect on society, quoting Lillian Fadermen, from The Gay Revolution:

"A mass movement can get along fine without a god, but it won't get along at all without a devil. For gay people all over the country, Anita Bryant became that devil."

Monday, April 17, 2023

Still Hopeful

I went to a book talk via Zoom tonight to see Maude Barlow talk about her recent book, Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism. I last saw her in person, seven years ago, when she worked to try to get Nestle out of Guelph. This time her book is about all the things, and how to keep up our spirits while fixing a broken system. She does book talks online now because travelling is taxing, and she's 75! 

She started writing this book after being at a talk in June 2019, at the start of Covid, in a packed church full of lots of young people there to see her and David Suzuki and Avi Lewis. She spoke about having hope while facing facts and the Green New Deal, and then at the end, a couple grade 12 girls told if that if she hadn't talked about hope, they would have given up.

Her definition of hope is, 

"the commitment to protect all that is good for the future generations and the planet, knowing that you can't control the outcome, but put your hand out anyway and touch the universe when you can, and have faith that others are doing the same--faith that you're not alone."

Here are her three major lessons somewhat paraphrased:

Sunday, April 16, 2023

At What Point is Inaction a Form of Genocide??

This impressive and prescient thread worthy of saving is from Miles W. Griffis. He interweaves a speech from Vito Russo, AIDS activist, back and forth with current headlines on Covid-19 to show how easily we write-off a group of people when they become inconvenient:

Vito Russo's 1988 ACT UP speech "Why We Fight" has many parallels to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic currently causing 1,000+ deaths per week plus mass disability. Russo delivered "Why We Fight" during an ACT UP demonstration at the Department of Health and Human Services, D.C. on October 10, 1988. 

"My family thinks two things about my AIDS diagnosis. One, they think I'm going to die, and two, they think that my government is doing absolutely everything in their power to stop that, and they're wrong on both counts." 

"'A slow-moving glacier'" NIH's sluggish and often opaque efforts to study long Covid draw patient, expert ire." (Stat, March, 2022)

"If I'm dying from anything, I'm dying from racism."

"People of color less likely to receive Paxlovid and other Covid-19 treatments, according to CDC study." (CNN, October, 2022)

Monday, April 10, 2023

We're Not Ready for This

I'm waiting to write my last exam of the term. It's supposed to open at 8:00, and we have 90 minutes to write it, online, multiple choice, open book. I set aside 8-9:30 am today to write, and asked my kids to stay in their rooms until I finished. Except it's not up yet. I checked the date and time repeatedly, then I emailed the prof. No answer. I really hope she's okay! I'm not too worried, though, because this kind of thing has been happening all term. I've taken it upon myself to be the unsolicited student secretary for my profs, opening myself to potential thanks or subtle retaliation for being that person that's annoyingly on the ball, as if I'm showing them up when really I just want to get through these courses!! I've chalked many of the problems up to poor tech training on the online platform they're made to use. But...

While waiting, I went down a rabbit's hole of brain studies and random analysis. 

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Age of Absurdity

We're skipping gleefully into the most absurd period in history. 

The philosophical notion of the absurd came from Camus. It grew legs with existentialists after WWII when the youngest and fittest men were sent to be slaughtered in war. The streets of Paris were full of widows and grieving mothers and broken men. The question of the day was, How can we make sense of our lives and our place here and our idea of justice with all this going on?  

I wrote more about it at length as I struggled with decisions foisted on me during my cancer years that left me with chronic issues. The answer from Camus is to stop trying to make sense of it all. Embrace the absurdity of our lives. We always have the option of leaving it behind, so if we choose to stay - famously if we choose coffee over suicide, then we have to acknowledge the world despite the weight of our knowledge pushing us to escape it through self-deception and cultural deception. All our choices are always a crap shoot, and at the same time, they're always our responsibility even though we can't possibly know how things will turn out, which, at the same time, takes the weight of that decision being the best choice off our shoulders. Outcomes are all out of our control, but we must try to do right anyway. We're taking a test without every having taken the course.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Looking for the Enlightened

The season finale of The Last of Us, "Look for the Light" (see what I did there?) sets up a great deontological v. teleological conundrum with the big question (tiny spoiler), which ends up being an episode-long trolley problem: Is it right to kill one person if doing so could save multitudes? (The brilliant Just an Observation explains how the entire season sets up the problem.) In a utilitarian view, of course we should sacrifice one person to potentially save all of humanity. It would be absurd not to see this and ensure the safety of all! But it doesn't pass the categorical imperative sniff test. We can't support intentional harm coming to people, any people, no matter how few, even if it will help many others.

Kant's famous rule: "I am never to act otherwise than so that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law," so killing a person to help others is necessarily wrong. It's not a numbers game since "the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect expected." And we have to treat each person as an end in themselves, never as a means to an end.

Or, as the great Mitchell & Webb make clear, killing some to save others is just plain wrong "because it's offensive and evil."

And people will do absolutely anything to save the children they love if they turn out to be the sacrificial lambs in question.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Liquid Life and the Myth of Government Protection

Liquid life is a concept some Buddhist cultures had of the young and old, typically those under 6 and over 70, whose lives weren't seen as quite solid due to the greater likelihood of death at either end compared to the middle. This book discusses, among other things, some of the rituals involved in Buddhist Japan around the shift from liquid to solid and back again. But then things got much better for the littles.

I've used a life expectancy graph here a few times now that shows how our life expectancy has decreased significantly since Covid to make it clear that we're going through a seriously decimating crisis that's being largely ignored. But that's just the tail end of this graph below, which shows life expectancy over the last few centuries:

It's interesting to consider the differences that came in this very, very brief time in human history in which we successfully got most people to make it past 70. The lower life expectancies that came before the industrial revolution don't indicate that older people were dying off younger, but that more younger people didn't make it to old age. There are two things (at least) going on here: First, infant mortality improved dramatically thanks to better medical know-how and a huge thanks to sanitation AND vaccinations.