Monthly Archives: October 2013

Shifting Sands of Certainty

It’s overcast. Again. In an area known for its endless sunshine, clouds have put a damper on the whole year. The unusual weather is nothing new and I shouldn’t be surprised that another summer has been robbed by rain. The ever optimistic sailboat operator that stopped by this morning was still pleasant though his business suffered immensely from the rain. The flesh eating bacteria infesting the Gulf probably didn’t help, either.

The elderly couple that just left echoed the worries of everyone these days…what about the banks? What about the government? Is our money safe anywhere? The aged man opened the door for his wife twice as they were coming and leaving, a relic of an older time. She allowed it; expected it—just like when she handed him the book and tin she was holding as she went to stand up from the chair as the meeting began. She expects to be cared for as he has always provided. There was a certainty to their actions though they expressed uncertainty of the future.

The future’s uncertain and the end is always beginning. Older generations seem shocked by the uncertainty; perplexed that something that was once so stable, so familiar has been uprooted and changed so quickly before their very eyes. Kids these days…

But the kids only know uncertainty. We have to be adaptive and keep up to keep afloat and if we’re constantly distracted by the things we have to pay attention to to attend to our payments of debt then we’re too easily distracted. Distraction is our survival method and it’s not a new one, but it has become necessary.

When the only thing certain in the world is uncertainty, there’s no living in the future but there’s a lot of contemplation about it. There’s barely living in the present as woes are echoed over buying and spending and healthcare and war. There are always the wars, but they get pushed to the backburner. What about this healthcare stuff?

Well, what about it? Go crunch the numbers and try to tell me it’s not about crushing the middle class already hanging by a thread. Try to tell me how much I need a service from a broken system that will be collapsed by the time I’m old enough to receive its “services.” What can I say that hasn’t already been said better? I won’t be bitter about it, but I will defy it.

As a creature whose moods are moved by the flows of the lunar cycle you could say I’m especially moody today. Some might chalk it up to Cancerian emotionalism, but I don’t believe in that brand of voodoo. I’d like a potion; however, to give me back the certainty I had when I was eighteen.  When I got that way too big third eye tattoo on my back that admonished me and whoever read it to “Be Here Now” back then and in the future. Back when socialism seemed viable and people were naturally good. Back when I knew everything and the world was my eel to be wrapped in rice and seaweed because pescatarianism was so enlightening…man. I’d go to school for cheap, get a degree, piddle around a bit, maybe go back and get a PhD. in some literary field so I could be a professor and publish some books on the side and feel so insulated and secure in academia, perhaps looking down my nose at people who dared to watch Fox News and own an appliance business or something…useful to society.

So, I’m great at tangents, but that’s no skill and maybe there’s some eloquent way of tying it all together by the end of the blog post or maybe this one is just an adventure in itself. I’m better at beginnings and endings, says all writers especially bad ones, says me. So, this whole middle part is the part that we were taught in our English 101 essay writing to pass the FCAT class was unimportant. The part people glaze over, and doggone it you put the least interesting stuff in that middle paragraph because “people forget the middle of something and only focus on the beginning and the end.” Except that that is not what real life is like. I’m nearing the middle of my life at a break neck speed and desperately seeking meaning and direction, but have been schooled that the only parts anyone wants to hear about is the beginning and the end so should I just stop? God forbid.

There I go, I just checked my notifications on Facebook because of that old distraction. I didn’t stop thinking about what to do with what I hope will be the middle part of a blog entry, but I don’t know that I added any new information to hold your attention.

Two more kids got shot at a school today.

Two kids, once nearer to the beginning of their lives than I am, but beating me to the end. And I’m still in the present trying to comprehend what makes kids kill. Trying to make sure I survive the “boring” middle part of my life while feeding my narcissism every now and then when those kids don’t even get to enjoy the joy of banality that is presence instead of (what I hope isn’t) darkness forever.

They want another gun debate. All of ‘em. They want a solution to the debt. They want a solution to healthcare. But no one wants to know why all of these problems persist. No one wants to go back to the beginning and ask what the cause is. If they did, they would be forced to take a difficult look at themselves. Not as they appear outwardly, but the inner man who knows his secret sins. The heart of man that is greedy and self-serving and knows no other way and no matter what value you attach to this trait it is what it is; it exists. A book I was reading about how to write well (I didn’t stop reading when I dropped out of college, you know—and the author of the book hates that term), and in the PC environment which has thrived he warned the reader to avoid using male pronouns more often than female ones. So, maybe I should say, “The inner woman who knows her secret sins.” But…isn’t that sexist? I can’t keep up now, and it all sounds a little corny.

Now, whether as some claim greed is good or greed is evil, it matters not. We’re all greedy on different levels. We all want what we can’t have and we all want to prevent others from attaining things we feel entitled to whether or not we admit it. As much as I don’t want to admit it, that curmudgeon Ayn Rand was right. And yes, a good many of us simply want to be left alone. We want to go to work, get home safely, be loved by someone or many someones, eat, shit, and get some sleep. The minor disruptions will be ignored even if they are kind of major. We’ll pay the penalty for shitty “healthcare,” we might bitch about a war, but we’ll keep trudging along until we can’t anymore because it is at our front door in a suit wearing black boots.

Life is moving so fast and sometimes all I can think about is what will happen when I can’t keep up anymore. When I can’t have 30 tabs open absorbing different nuggets of mostly useless information to store in the vast infinite amount of grey matter in my mind (or my brain? Has anyone figured out that one yet?). When my husband opens the door for me as I delicately walk into some office and ask a much younger person what they think will happen. They don’t know, either, but hopefully by then I’ll be less concerned with finding certainty. Hopefully, I’ll have kids of my own that weren’t sent to public school where they were made lambs to the slaughter before they reached the age where they got to know everything and then realized they knew nothing and yet couldn’t submit, for knowledge then would be so attainable and yet so far away.

Kind of like it is now.

If I’m to obey my mistake tattoo completely, I have to let go of this worrisome uncertainty of the future. But we were never meant to. I am different from those old folks and closer to those kids in varying degrees of certainty. How could they have possibly gained anything from being aware in the present moment when they were shot? But I was so certain when I got it hammered into my skin that the mantra couldn’t be wrong and so many people remark on how “deep” it is. It isn’t deep. It isn’t shallow. It just is, and not in the pseudo-metaphysical kind of way. I can’t ever “Be Here Now” except in the flesh, and am thankful that only the flesh can be stamped with the kind of regressive ink that is a tired saying by a dying doctor. My mind, though, is always doing somewhere else later.

I have to reconcile this anxiety with action and becoming comfortable with uncertainty is paradoxical. My mind understands the need for it, but those pesky emotions always seem to get in the way. Don’t worry, I’m working on fixing my hormones I promise, but I’m just a lady. Am I still allowed to use “lady?” I’ve always been fond of the word, but that author might disagree. Is becoming wholly comfortable with discomfort the real singularity? In our mind we can justify any belief and use mental gymnastics to prove it is true, but is action the proof that it is solid? I know many brilliant philosophical nihilists, but how often do their direct actions align with their beliefs? Same for any extreme stance, many that I personally hold. If I can comprehend that uncertainty is the norm and I must adapt to expect it, the obvious hard part is being prepared physically. And that’s the beauty of the paradox; we are all inconsistent sometimes all the time in regards to what we mentally accept and what we physically act out. So, while I can make a declaration that my generation is better prepared than former ones for uncertain times, it doesn’t make it true (though a compelling case can be made).

Am I ever going to get to the point, now? It seems like the boring middle part is over and now it is time for the explosive end, the clincher, the “aha” moment. But maybe I don’t have one. Maybe I’m still searching for how I can keep sane in this overcast town, maybe I am connecting why so many good writers move to such dreary places to be productive, maybe you’re just reading a therapy session for someone who doesn’t have any answers. Someone who doesn’t know anything, but has a lot of opinions. Someone who tends to keep quiet when something monumental happens until more evidence comes out and whose silence is mistaken for judgment and whispers are overshadowed by the howls of those more vocally extreme–the ones who write headlines that generate controversy and are adored by those content to follow. The one whose words are louder than their actions when they don’t know anything, either. The ones that those old folks look to for answers and instead of saying they don’t know they instead give advice that they can’t follow themselves. If anything, I’m striving to be genuine in an insincere world and am sometimes genuinely insincere. I wrote a poem about it, maybe I’ll post it sometime. Until next time, I’ll be trying to align my beliefs with my actions and trying to get comfortable with paradoxes because maybe someday, probably tomorrow, the sun will be back.

And I’ll be on solid ground again.

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Uncomfortable Thoughts on Dread Pirate Roberts

It’s no secret I love Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. No, I am in love with them, and even view them as a way for younger generations to break free from crippling debt imposed on us. There has been so much benevolence from the Bitcoin community, and the currency has been used for everything from feeding the homeless to buying fertile chicken eggs to of course…drugs. I have no problem with anything that can be bought with Bitcoin or the notorious Silk Road. If anything, the Silk Road allowed for fairer prices and higher quality of whatever it was you were buying with efficient delivery and less casualties as opposed to going to the streets for drugs.

Now, I have to deviate from some of my fellow libertarian and anarchist friends over the recent detainment of alleged Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts. I want to make it clear that I in no way support caging anyone for victimless crimes nor do I support the state in its current form locking anyone up for any reason. But, and this is a serious but, supporting someone who may have ordered a hit on other people is unsettling to me.

At this point, there doesn’t seem to be solid evidence that shows people lost their lives at the behest of DPR. I am comfortable saying I truly don’t know if he had people killed or not, and am willing to change my position if new evidence arises. However, it is disturbing that people are holding such allegiances to an idol in the crypto-currency world without sufficient evidence to justify their positions.

It is possible DPR was set up, that no lives were lost, and that he was detained because he was competing with the drug trade in the US. I am willing to entertain that idea, and if true, DPR would have my full support.

What is not known, however, is if the assertions of his innocence in plotting murder are true. There are known knowns and known unknowns and at the moment what is known is that DPR has been detained, that he made some serious mistakes at covering his tracks, his Bitcoin wallet has been seized (though the FBI cannot access the roughly 600,000 BTC, lol), and that he is facing some severe charges that will likely land him in prison for a very long time.

What is unknown is if someone or multiple people were killed to protect the Silk Road, yet supporters are rationalizing his actions on the assumption that it is true he ordered people to be killed. Like I said, I could get on board with the possibility that he was set up and even that the person threatening to leak client information is a total scumbag; but if the allegations are true, I cannot conscionably stand behind someone who resorts to tactics used by mafia members and federal agencies to silence opposition to an operation.

Let’s for a minute assume the allegations are true and people have been killed.

The rationalizations behind supporting a murderer, in this case a hero to many in the community, are shoddy at best and must rely on utilitarian thinking; which is often anathema to people who argue in favor of a state free society. Supporters have made the point that DPR acted in the best interests of his clients, and that the actions prevented many more lives from being ruined; therefore, hiring a hit man to kill one person or a couple people was justified. This is all hypothetical, though, because there’s even a lack proof that the person threatened was able to expose Silk Road users.

There’s also the added problem of many Silk Road users being undercover agents, which certainly adds to the idea that it might have been a set up but in no way is provable yet. How can this argument be applied consistently without violating a person’s right to self-ownership? Statists are hounded all the time for using this same logic for coercive functions of the state like taxation, regulations, drug raids, etc. Why are anarchists adopting it to be a fitting defense of DPR?

Another common argument libertarians and anarchists make is that the agents of the state are subject to the same moral codes and have the same rights as civilians. If a cop kills someone, his badge shouldn’t grant him immunity from the consequences of his decision. In order for us to be philosophically consistent, we have to apply those same standards to those in our own community who break commonly accepted moral rules…you know, like killing someone. DPR doesn’t become a brave saint protecting his clients by killing off his enemies.

Plus, if you are involved in serious black market activity, you are dealing with a greater number of criminal elements, and should expect trouble. Facilitating drug deals is extremely dangerous and because of its black market status there is a ton of violence that is done against others; moving the activity to the internet doesn’t change this factor. Inb4 but teh drug war caused this! Acting like Don Corleone doesn’t make you worthy of support because you adopt a special label that identifies you as trustworthy within a community just like badges don’t grant special rights. As much as I distrust the “official” version of events when it comes from the state (and in this case I truly want them to be wrong), it is not unreasonable that DPR would have been involved in highly criminal activity to protect his empire. Common sense must play a role in this issue given the nature of the Silk Road.

The blind support of DPR is symptomatic of a greater problem in anarchist circles. Because someone identifies as “one of us” we assume they are good guys no matter if they accumulate extreme amounts of wealth and the trappings of power that we so frequently say are the cause of corruption among politicians and other agents of the state. What makes anarchists think that people who identify as anarchists would be any different than your average person? Adopting a label doesn’t make you magically more ethical and immune from the effects of rapid wealth and power accumulation.

This excusing of harmful behavior hasn’t just been applied to DPR, but many of the most vocal modern day proponents of anarchism. There are people who have stolen from each other, broken contracts and not paid people for the work they did, turned into narcs and got other activists imprisoned, and people have defended these individuals on faulty rationale that comes down to either claiming they were just a victim of the system, outright denial, or just brushing the accusations off because they have done “so much for the movement.”

If we can throw out the personal responsibilities people have who harm others because they claim membership in a special club, then there is no consistency in the philosophy or actions of anarchism. You can’t on one hand say people shouldn’t kill each other and then on the other say, “Well, except for fellow anarchists trying to protect their clients and drug profits.”

I don’t believe every supporter of DPR is blindly supporting him, and I really, really, really want to see proof that he did in fact not have people killed. There are so many intelligent people in the crypto-currency world, and if anyone can provide this evidence I will take an honest look at it. There’s no vested interest in me being right in this discussion because if the government is actually right about DPR’s actions then it has the potential to turn the public even more against the concept of crypto-currencies. It could undermine a lot of hard work others have done to prove the legitimacy of unconventional currencies.

But I don’t want to end on a negative note, so the good news is I think Bitcoin et.al. are here to stay despite the crackdown on Silk Road, and that even more sites like it will fill in the gap for people to gain safe access to beneficial medicines on the black market. DPR is one guy who let the power go to his head (sound familiar?) and while his situation is unfortunate, it appears to be of his own making. If you’re going to be breaking the law especially if you are making millions and competing with drug cartels in the federal government, then you better be really freaking careful. It is hilarious to me that the FBI still can’t access his Bitcoin, though. I’m not switching teams here or anything because DPR might be a murderer.

Thankfully, the future of crypto-currencies is bright and isn’t solely defined by what some people choose to purchase with them. Many vendors are still happy to accept them and many more will start. While I’m not a believer in the complete innocence of DPR, I am still enthusiastic about the future of alternative currencies. I’ll still accept them for my articles and hula hoops, even if this particular post isn’t likely to earn me any tips. We can separate the dubious actions of DPR from the life changing potential/actuality of Bitcoin regardless of the outcome of this situation, and it is an excellent learning opportunity for those who may hold others humans as sinless because of their philosophical identity.

 

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