politics and power

Now that I’m no longer in college, I find reading philosophy oddly pleasurable.

I’m also a little angry that these dudes had all these grandiose theories and didn’t do shit about them. Ah, but maybe that will be me too.

What I’ve been wondering lately is whether or not politics were always set up to fail? Or if there’s still a way to save them?

In any case, Aristotle, who was oh so sure of himself, argued that political societies were essentially established to enforce justice. So my stubborn ass wrote a paper on how he lived in a dreamworld – as in yes, political societies may have been formed to establish justice (think police, law enforcement), but the only reason they survive is because of a greed for power.

A similar analogy would be how money was created to encourage self-sufficiency (through trading) but now money has become the end goal for many. In the same way, power was allotted to enforce justice but everyone became obsessed with the fucking power.

And so now, there’s a lack of accountability. It seems that many if not all of our politicians have been blinded to the true goal of political societies, not because they don’t care (because you don’t go through the painstaking process of the election if you don’t care), but because they don’t see any other means for survival. Having spent some time in DC, 70% of a politician’s time is spent trying to build up funds for their party if not for their own next election.

Politicians spend so much time trying to make sure they reelected that they actually don’t have time to focus on the true meaning of justice. It’s become about figuring out how to stay in power, because the other side is so evil. So when someone comes in and has some strong opinions, bad shit is obviously gonna go down because no one is paying attention.

re: John Oliver: Gun Control and Political Suicide

If someone with strong opinions and money comes in, we fucked. Because as a politician, it’s easy to think, I can take this money, spend a little less time campaigning, and spend more time trying to “carry out justice” aka “doing the job I was elected to do”. After all, “If I don’t take this money and don’t get reelected, these people are fucked anyway.” And that is how the government came to be.

My point is, the system kind of screwed them over in the first place. But was it the system? Or is politics itself the problem? After all, whenever power is allocated, something dangerous is always going to happen. In the case of the United States, power was allocated, then a very elaborate system was set up to try and control it, and things still got fucked.

If only there was a way to change the incentive system, to remove all the things that distract politicians from “enforcing justice”. Of the top of my head, money as a means of getting reelected, the polarized party system (where you’re chances of getting elected are higher if you’re own party likes you), honestly, parties in general (just vote for who you agree with jc). Finally, if there were some way to strip the status of equating a politician with power (which I know is an inherent part of the job), it would deter those from running who don’t actually care and are seeking a status symbol.

Useless thoughts, I know.

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is life truly a gift?

I think most of us would agree that life is full of suffering.

Most things happen by chance. And yet, we spend life wondering – What is perfection? What is happiness? How do i give my life meaning? And then we find a dream and kill ourselves trying to get there.

For others, there’s not even that chance. for others, life is spent trying to survive. and for what?

So I was inspired by this New Yorker article on anti-natalist David Benatar: “The Case for Not Being Born”

The case is that life is full of suffering. and we spend it trying to defend our children from suffering when the best case would have been to prevent it in the first place. That the gift of being a sentient being is truly a curse.

“While good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place”

And truthfully, it’s hard to defend against such a case.

There is so much suffering in the world. And all everyone is trying to do, is to make a case for themselves. A reason for being on this earth that makes all the suffering worth it. It’s why we seek simple pleasures or why we strive for the unattainable goals. Power and money and a belief that we are better than others. That somehow our life was worth a little bit more.

I mean in figuring out the question, what would make me happy, I’m really trying to answer the question, what makes my life worth it? Ironically, a lot of people have kids because that becomes their reason for being.

I don’t have a good answer to “is life truly a gift”, but I wonder if there’s a way to use this line of thinking to better humanity.

The thing is, at least in the US based society, no matter how much you care for others, your first priority is your family, your children, giving them the best that you can and giving away the leftovers if you feel that you have enough. It’s a sentiment of self-preservation and security first and then maybe, just maybe, if you’re feeling generous enough. Even charity is interesting because those who give often take away a good feeling for themselves, that we were generous, that we provided for others. It’s nearly impossible to commit a selfless act.

Perhaps there is a way to ignite a culture of being selfless and to incorporate this into our daily lives beyond what I would call “leftovers”. A shift in frame of mind I suppose. One way would be to somehow boost the power of giving where the “good feeling” that you get from giving is somehow worth significantly more than the good you get from spending on yourself. The other way, which is significantly more difficult, is to somehow get people to care about strangers the way they would care about their own family. I mean, what is it about blood that makes one human’s life more important to us than another (I suppose I wouldn’t understand seeing as I’m not a parent). If we had that perspective though, we would never let others be homeless or to sit in the conditions of prison, or to be refused entry into a country. There must be a way to shift a society’s perspective so that the security of others is closer to being equated with the security of ourselves and our families.

I don’t know what it is. And to be quite honest, I don’t even come close to that level of selflessness. But there must be a way.

Empathy

I wish there was a way to teach empathy. And to incentivize people to empathize.

To understand that the circumstances of your birth predetermine 50% of your life. Whether that was your parent’s careers and social status and education and maybe their religion. The country that you were born into and maybe even the state.

Your level of intelligence, your physical and mental health.

One of the things our country is struggling with most is the level of empathy. We’re so far apart now and we have no idea how to come back together. We listen to the people we want to listen to. And we trust what they’re saying regardless of what they’re saying. We refuse to listen to each other or to even try and understand.

Yes, it’s true, there are facts. But in my opinion, even facts can be subjective. If we ignore circumstances and individual perspectives, why someone thinks the way they think, how can we possibly think that we have the potential to change their mind? What makes us think that they would trust us enough to listen and if they listened that they would understand?

Truthfully, I feel like I don’t have enough empathy. I grew up as a minority, but with a life of privilege, with parents that were educated and had steady jobs. In a strongly liberal state with liberal parents. And I don’t understand the other side. The other perspective.

Truthfully, every time I try to understand the other side, it makes me angry, because it seems to unreasonable. And because of that, I tune it out. That’s not right.

Truthfully, I sometimes think that people who don’t agree with me are ignorant. But maybe they think the same of me.

We’re so divided now. How can we start to understand?

the light

The darkness started in November. No, it was before that. But I made the first cut in November. And it took me 4 months to stop. And I really thought that I would be dead before I made it here. Because it hurt to wake up. And to get out of bed. And to go to work.

It hurt to smile. And to talk to people. To spend every second of every day lying.

It felt like my mind was drowning and treading water all the damn time. Never quite reaching the surface.

I didn’t think I would make it here.

It’s one thing to be alive. It’s another to live. I’ve felt joy in the past week. Real joy. Not the plastic smile I’ve worn across my face for the past eight months, crying in whatever private space I could find. But that bubbling feeling in my chest, the one that can’t be contained.

I didn’t even recognize it at first.

And I kept up the motions. Waking up at 5:30am to put in a 12 hour day because it took me twice as long to get everything done. Riding Ubers to the office because I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel. I didn’t know where I would go. Or what I would do. The temptations I had, I could never say out loud.

The only moments with relief were when I drew blood. And for a brief moment, I could feel again. Better yet, I couldn’t feel anything else.

I stopped cutting four months ago. And this week, for the first time, I was happy. It still feels surreal. I’m proud to have made it here. But I still feel like I got lucky, and I don’t know how to reconcile that. Because what if I don’t make it out one day?

Someone today told me “its nice to see you smile again”. I don’t know why it felt so good. But I think I was glad someone said it out loud.

Striving to be

I’m at a place now where instead of choosing to be alive, I’m looking to choose to be happy. I honestly didn’t expect to make it here and I’m terrified that I’m still teetering on the edge, but seeing that option in front me is comforting. It’s a visible step forward.

Things are still hard, but in a different way. Over the past couple of months, I’ve gradually cut more and more people out of my life. I could barely manage the everyday interactions I was having, so I canceled plans, I stopped responding to messages, I spent as much time by myself as I could. Now that I’m finally ready to stop moping around, I’m finding myself unusually alone.

Its not the worst problem in the world to have though. Part of where I am now is little by little understanding the things that take me to a dark place, working not to overreact, and striving to be happy regardless of circumstance. Because I can’t guarantee that my life won’t sink to shit ever again and I want to be ready.

I’m not quite there yet, but having the option in front of me means that I’m moving forward. Here’s hoping I continue in that direction.

Sundays

I wake up on Sundays with my heart racing, a pit in my stomach.

It’s a habit now.

Another week is coming, but what have I accomplished this week? What have I accomplished this weekend? The obsessions never stop.

Things have settled down now. I know I’m on the upswing, but cycles of anxiety grasp at every thought. The meaningless worries, which used to sit in the back of my mind, seem to have nestled in and made their home. No amount of mental power will make them budge.

I’m trying to take things one step at a time. To appreciate the glimpses of light in every day, but I can’t help but dwell on the negatives. My brain seems to wander in search of the tiniest anxieties I’ve been running around to avoid. Last week, I couldn’t breathe. I thought my asthma had finally heard about LA smog. But it was just anxiety. I guess my subconscious knows, because the nightmares haven’t stopped in weeks. Swarming me every night and with every nap. Ironic since sleeping is how I used to avoid the world.

I’ll be patient.

I’ve gotten to the point where the me I’m trying to hide doesn’t slip out as often. I walk around with smiles, suspiciously positive retorts to the day old “how are you?” Things are seemingly back to normal. And I haven’t cut in a month. But every second of every day still feels like a war. To not get sucked in again, and to forgive myself when I do.

Sundays though. Sundays I aim for survival. Sundays I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can live up to them, but when the day comes, the loneliness settles in. I walk around with a tightness in my chest, an urge to throw everything up. Sundays I despise, but secretly wish would continue forever.

Today, I’m remembering to breathe, be patient, and practice a little bit of metta.

Recovery

Recovery feels like finally realizing that the sun is behind the clouds and that its been there all along. But it’s not the same thing as seeing the sun.

Recovery is acknowledging that your life is worth it and fighting like hell every second to remember that. Refusing the vicious thoughts and temptations you used to rely on. Resisting the ease of slipping into a dark hole and lying there because it’s easier not to get up.

Recovery is struggling to remember that there is good in every moment even if you can’t see it right now. It’s being grateful for the ten minutes of every day that you have a smile on your face and it’s real.

But that sinking feeling in your chest is still there. Once in awhile it gets a little bit lighter, but you know that it’s there. You have to remember that those dark habits you relied on have consequences. So now before you reach for your razor, you stop, you breathe, count to ten, think of alternatives. You remember that people care. You remember that you should care.

Recovery is knowing that the sun is there, but fighting every second just to catch a glimpse. And every time you lose sight of it, you’re filled with terror.

Forgive yourself. Be kind. Be patient. Someday, every day will be filled with sun.