July 28, 2021 #28 of Podcast: Conversation with Fellow Rebel Addison Reeves
I talk to fellow NYC radical Addison from Modern Heretic about technology, class, dating, leaving the city, and much more.
Send a voice message @ https://anchor.fm/frieda-vizel/message
Hi, I’m Frieda Vizel, and this is Radically Human. Today, I’m with Addison from the blog, Modern Heretic. Addison is a friend of mine and a very extraordinary woman. She’s here in New York City, and I’m very excited that she’s actually here with me in person at my place. Addison is a critical thinker, a real humanist, and I find that I can talk to her about a lot of the subjects that interest me.
What do we talk about?
I think philosophy, political science, social criticism, life in general, culture…
Culture, life in general, the good food we just got… Addison is a real adventurer and has that traveler’s spirit. So, let’s start here with you telling us a little bit about yourself. Just a brief summary about yourself.
Okay, well, thank you very much for having me. I’m so honored that you asked me to do this. I think that I’m really starting to move away from labels. So, it’s hard for me to come up with a good descriptor for who I am. But I would say that I am many things. I tried to continually be an aspiring Renaissance woman. So, I’m always trying different things. I think of myself as a sort of political science, amateur political science, amateur philosopher. I love to dance, cook, be out in the world, moving, nature. I’m trying to be a fully-fledged human and trying to balance out my sematic, more physical interests with my cerebral interests in philosophy and social criticism and politics and understanding culture. And I come from, I guess you could say, a radical left perspective. So, I don’t even know how to place myself in today’s political world. And I even think that there’s a realignment happening. So, I don’t want to go too far into trying to label myself, but that is, I guess, the best label I would use right now.
Can you define radical? Because I think most people have a really hard time with what you mean by ‘radical left’, even people who are maybe involved with radical thinking but wouldn’t particularly use the label because it’s been so…
That’s why I hesitate to use labels. Because labels mean different things to different people. I started to use a radical in the last year where I felt very different from a lot of other thinkers, especially thinkers on the left. And I’ve been feeling a little different for a while. I’ve been really interested in different philosophies. I love the philosopher, Ivan Illich. And he’s very radical. And when I think of radical, I think of it in the manner of radical that he is, in which you’re kind of returning to the origin. That’s what the word radical means, going back to the origin. And I feel like I approach all of my thoughts, all of my ideas about the world, from an origin of human life, the origin of what were humans meant to do? What is community meant to do? What are individuals meant to do? And I try to start from there. So, I don’t take the world as it is; I don’t take society as it is. I don’t assume that things that are normal today are the way things should be. I try to go further back and say, is this in accordance with our original nature? Is this is in accordance with what it means to be human?
Like with? Let’s take an example of what we take as normative that is not actually normative. If you look from a radical perspective, I’m trying to think of…
You know what I think is the best example, I think, an easy example is: movement itself. The way we view the world, we view everything that we do as normal, and we view the way we move as normal. But in so many respects, it’s a very abnormal, very sedentary culture. We don’t move a lot. And then as a result of this lack of movement and lack of diversity of movement, we come away with all of these ailments. We don’t age very well. And we think that’s normal. We think it’s normal to have back pain and hip pain, and you can’t walk and you’re hobbling, and you’ve got a wheelchair or a walker. Those things aren’t necessarily normal, not being able to squat into old age isn’t necessarily normal, but we see it as normal because that’s the culture that we’re in.
So, I would look at that and I would say, okay, is there a reason? Is there something further back? Rather than trying to put a Band-Aid on this problem that we have now, let’s go further back and see the cause of the problem. The cause of the problem would be a lack of movement. And so, then I would start thinking about why do we have this lack of movement? And then I would start looking at society and… how society is contributing to this lack of movement. Because we’re using our cars all the time, and we’re at work where we have to sit all the time.
And so, I would say that there’s a problem with our society and that we probably need to restructure our society and that’s where I get radical because for that, for most people that’d be extreme. If society… society is the way it is, this is the way it should be. But I would say no, this isn’t the way it should be because it’s causing us problems down the line. So, we would need to restructure society to make things better. And this isn’t all me. I’ve gotten a lot of these ideas from people like biomechanist Katy Bowman who talks a lot about movement culture and the effects that movement culture or lack of movement culture can have on people. So, I think that’s just a very non-threatening example. It’s not too political. But… and so I think, a lot of people, that’s where I notice the difference in my being radical and other people not necessarily being so. A lot of people just accept the way the world is, they accept these ailments. When I try to bring the good word to them about, no wait, this isn’t inevitable, you don’t have to age poorly, you can possibly avoid certain ailments, they’re not really ready to accept that because they’re so mired in this world where no, this is the way it is, and just when this stuff happens to me, I’ll just go to the doctor and I’ll get a pill and that’s that.
It’s not that they say I accept the maladies, they say our solution should be to invent a cure and keep the disease instead of unpacking and unraveling where did we get here? This is so true of the medical industry, which I guess is a lot more controversial than the movement industry. The movement industry is… the way most people approach it is, well, we should do more yoga, and we should go to boutique gyms, and that will solve all the problems. We’ll sit for nine hours at a desk, and then we’ll go to the gym. But with the medical industry, and this Illich, of course, wrote about in Medical Nemesis, and it was really an idea I was introduced to with Neil Postman. That was, for me, a very big intellectual shift when I read his book on Technopoly he called it, and he wrote about the idea that we’re constantly turning ourselves into patients preemptively and asking this very, very radical question, this root question. Do we need to? Should we, instead of preemptively treating ourselves like patients, unpack that?
Well, and I think I’m going to have to track back to the conversation we were having earlier about what I was saying with regards to internalization versus externalization. So, I had mentioned to you earlier that I think a large part of our problem in society is that we focus on teaching people to externalize their problems. And that’s one thing that we do with our health – I’ve got this ailment now, and I don’t have any control over it, I don’t have any personal sense of efficacy, I have to go to an expert and have this expert solve that problem. You don’t have any sense of this is a problem that you yourself can fix. It’s always a problem that’s outside of you for someone else to fix.
You know, you and I have this, we have this disagreement sort of on individuality. And it’s so interesting, because… So let’s backtrack on something you were starting to bring up as we were walking over here. Addison and I go out and we do trouble around town. We print these stickers that are part of a global White Rose movement, where people will just get these stickers that are against the entire bio-digital technocracy that is coming out of the lockdown. And we print our own and we sticker around New York City. Addison is really a master at it, doing it covertly. I am on a million cameras seen putting them up. But anyway, so we once put on a sticker that said, what did it say?
Which one are you referring to? We printed so many out.
So, I’m backtracking on the individualism issue. It said something like “I’m responsible for my…”
Oh, yes, the sticker… It was emulating one of the MTA propaganda posters, and that poster said something like, “I take care of you, you take care of me.” And so, I printed another sticker that said something like, “I am responsible for my own health.” And we had a disagreement about the I guess the messaging behind that.
Yeah. And I was uncomfortable with the responsibility concept. And you know what, I have to read to you something. Let me see if I can manage this while… From actually Illich, which I read in David Cayley’s newest book, and it is on responsibility. And I think it’s very relevant to working out this disagreement. So let me pull it out.
Okay. Here’s a quote I’m going to read to you. Okay, this is from the introduction that is written by David Cayley. So, this is David Cayley, who I told you, I’m going to be talking to next. And he wrote:
“Responsibility was a word that carried considerable weight in his writings,”
meaning Illich’s writings,
“until at least the time of Medical Nemesis. But in 1990, at a lecture given at Hannover, Germany, titled ‘Health as One’s Own Responsibility: No, thank you!’ he renounced it. In this talk, he argued that the word had now acquired connotations that had made it into the opposite of self-limitation. ‘How could he be responsible?’ he asked, when health now implies the smooth integration of my immune system into a socio-economic world system. I can imagine no complex of controls capable of saving us from the flood of poisonous radiation, goods and services, which sicken humans and animals more than ever before. There is no way out of this world. I live in a manufactured reality ever further removed from creation. I know today what that signifies, what horror threatens each of us. A few decades ago, I did not yet know. At that time, it seemed possible that I could share responsibility for the remaking of this manufactured world. Today, I finally know what powerlessness is. Responsibility is now an illusion. In such a world, being healthy is reduced to a combination of techniques, protection of the environment, and adaptation to the consequences of the techniques. All three of which are inevitably privileges.”
He’s so good.
He doesn’t hold back. He’s not…
But so, hearing you say that, hearing you read that, that reminded me that I wanted to say I think we are on the same page when it comes to the idea of community. I do believe in the idea of community. And so, I get where you’re coming from with the idea of being responsible for each other, sharing responsibility for each other. But then, with what Illich is saying, I think this is the perspective that I’m kind of coming from, and I’m not saying that I’m speaking exactly the same way he is, but I’m looking at it from a system perspective. And I see that when people appeal to community, they’re doing so in furtherance of civilization, in furtherance of societal structures, not in furtherance of actual community where people are supporting each other. So, it bothers me when there are these communal appeals, these collectivist appeals that only serve to reinforce the existing societal structures, which tend to be very unequal and exploitative and not really communal.
Yeah, as you said, I think we bring our own sort of baggage to these terms. Because, of course, I agree with you, and I agree with you on the premise that our empathy and responsibilities to each other will be exploited in the service of evil in general, the not-good. And this is the fundamental process of, for instance, nationalism, or any terrible mobilization of the mob. I think what ticks me off about responsibility as something where you say you can help yourself is really my frustration with the culture of individualism where there is a denial that we are part of a system where we are rather powerless… People will say: you are responsible for your own health. Well, you know what, if you’re within a system that is so completely integrated into every aspect of life… it’s the air you breathe has been completely changed by civilization, the way you live, the way you treat land, what you’re allowed to do. Everything is, of course, being subjected to the ever-growing bureaucracies that are monsters cropping out everywhere, and of course, it’s going to become ever more complex. In this system, where I was discussing with Simon Elmer the part where health becomes a responsibility. If you’re not healthy, then you are now a criminal for it. In this insane system, our responsibility towards ourselves feels, to me, like misdirected attribution of blame instead of to the system. That’s where I… I feel like the distinction is between systems thinking and blaming the individual. Like: pick yourself up by your bootstraps; I did it so you could be…
I was giving a tour to this gentleman who’s I think in his 70s, and he is gay and lived the gay artist’s life in bohemian Brooklyn, back in the day. Now his condo is worth a bajillion. And he was like, “How did you do during the lockdown?” I said, “Terrible, I didn’t even know if I’ll come back with my tour.” And he’s like, “I did it in life, I made it financially. You can do it.” And I get so frustrated. I don’t want to do it. I want you to acknowledge what the lockdowns have done to people like me. I don’t care if I do it, or you do it. What has happened has been a destruction of a certain kind of creative, independent energy. And that’s where I want you to be angry.
Yeah, you make a really good point, and I find that very thought-provoking. I don’t know… The way I come at it from is I have always lived in places that were considered on the left, democratic, blue state, all of that, and I’ve never really had much exposure to red-state thinking, conservative Republican thinking. So, in the way I would understand it is, the people on the left, the people in blue states were the ones who were talking about collectivism, and eschewed that idea of personal responsibility, whereas the conservatives, the people in the red state were more likely to bring up this idea of personal responsibility. And the way I grew up hearing it, I thought of it like this is so selfish like they’re not looking at the fact that people have different circumstances, and some people are disadvantaged, and they’re kind of ignoring the inequalities in our system, the systemic inequalities in our system. And so, I really didn’t like that.
But in recent years, I’ve come around to realizing that that perspective is born of a divide between urban and rural thinking. It’s people who aren’t living in places like New York City and don’t have these massive bureaucracies and don’t have so much government and they’re not getting all of the resources, they have more real community out there. And they have more of a sense of rugged individualism because they really do have to support themselves more because there might not be a fire department like two blocks down or a police station that is just a call away. They might not have a hospital that’s within reach of like half an hour’s car ride. So, they have to really take care of all of their living needs that we don’t really think about here. But as a result, they also have more of a sense of community because they really have to rely on their neighbors more because the government just isn’t there. So over time, I’ve come to respect more this idea of personal responsibility from that perspective.
But I am… at the same time, bristling when I hear this idea of, I don’t know if I want to say collectivism, but it’s like an appeal to collectivism. Like we’re all in this together and you need to do this for the group. Because the people I find it coming from are people who are very privileged and elite and people who are benefiting substantially from the system. And they’re using these appeals to keep the system going and perpetuate this really inequal system. And so, I find it very off-putting now.
Yeah, I hear. That’s very interesting. I mean, obviously, you’re talking about very similar concepts. Because there was a good sharing, there’s a good community, and there’s an exploitative community. And the really big challenge, I think, is to find a language for talking about the bad kind and for being able to recognize and validate when it’s the bad kind. It’s just as in abusive relationships, I think it’s very similar, where all of these great things, the love and the caring about each other and the stretching yourself to the moon and back because you love this other person, it could be wonderful. I mean, to the moon and back, might be… maybe that you shouldn’t. But of course, these things could be wonderful. I feel like so often, it’s all about the context.
And I was thinking about the song, ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside.’
Yes. I’m familiar.
Yeah, it is a great song. Like I love oldies. I love oldies. I’m listening to oldies, like, by the way, it is very interesting because it’s… what is the song I was listening to today, ‘Lady is a Tramp.’
I was listening to that yesterday.
That is so funny.
I was just thinking about that, too. I was singing along with it.
What does it mean, “the lady is a tramp?”
I know, it’s so interesting, because the things that he’s saying, I would think a lot of things she’s saying are very lady-like, from today’s perspective.
Well, yeah, she comes to the theater on time.
Yes, doesn’t fall asleep during the opera.
Yeah. But she’s a tramp because she doesn’t gossip with the girls.
Yes, she doesn’t do crap games with the barons and earls.
It’s so funny, I couldn’t get what they were saying – I heard crab. I didn’t hear baron and earls. Anyway, so with ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ I kept oscillating on my position if this is a horrible song, a rape song, or if it’s a song about old school lovers trying to taunt each other and get around the rules. And my recent position has been that it really depends on the context. It could be a fun dance between a couple where she’s like… and it could also be a really nasty, manipulative, horrible, and there’s going to be a nuance there that I think a good friend will be able to tell even if they can’t articulate it, which it is.
Yes, I’m actually… I have very strong opinions about this, and I am fully on team ‘this is a good song’. You have to view it within its timeframe. I guess, today, in this culture, that song wouldn’t fly. But I relate to that song so much, because as I was growing up as a young woman, I had very, I think very un-positive messages about sex. My mom’s sex talk was bringing me into her room and telling me, “When I was a young girl, some boy that I really liked, he was really cute, and I really liked him, he came and he asked me if he could touch my poom-poom. And I said no. So don’t ever let any boy… don’t ever let any boy touch your poom-poom.” I was like what? It was the most embarrassing talk, and I didn’t get anything out of it. But so, in my family…
You got poom-poom though. What is it… I’ve never heard of a poom-poom.
It’s your… So that was the extent of my sex education from my family and the rest I got from school. And so luckily, I did educate myself. I bring this up to say that I had some very negative messages around sex. All the messages around sex came from my parents as being very shameful. If sex came up on television or movies we were watching, I had to cover my eyes, leave the room. It was embarrassing; it was a lot of shame. And I had to work through that as an adult. So, in my earlier days of exploring my sexuality, I really had to like balance out this feeling of shame and also wanting to.
And so that, what she’s saying in the song, like “I really shouldn’t,” I really, I did that. I really, I would be there, like oh my god, I like this. I like kissing this guy; it feels good. Oh, but I shouldn’t. I don’t want to go too far; I can’t let him touch my poom-poom – I didn’t really think that. But I was hesitating and resisting in the moment, even though I wanted to, I would feel like I had to hold back. So that song resonates with me so much. It’s very clear to me that she had similar kinds of shame. Her family would be like, “Oh, my God, you’re out too late. What were you doing with that guy all night?” And so, she wanted to, but she was like, no, I shouldn’t, really, I shouldn’t. But I want to.
I relate to that. I think especially I grew up in the Hasidic community where sex-negative messaging is, of course, through the roof. And you want someone to sort of tell you… don’t worry, I’m going to make it easier for you to make the decision. Unless you don’t actually want to. And there are actual situations where you don’t want to, and you say no, but you’re struggling to say no, maybe because he’s… flattering you or whatever manipulative tact there is in the book, and probably not knowingly. Being like, “Oh, I’m going…” hunched back and sour face, and you suddenly want to jump in there and say, no, let’s save the day and leave on a good note. And maybe let’s a little more time together.
Well, yes. And I get that, too. So, I have also had experiences where no, I did want to say no, and I was saying no, but I was hesitating, but it was a completely different experience. It was completely different. The wording I would use, like the whole I should be leaving now. Like, that’s the key. Like I should be – I feel like I ought to, but I don’t really want to. Whereas when I wanted to say no, it was no. It wasn’t I should, it was like no, I don’t, I don’t really want to do this. But I might feel pressured because this guy is bigger than me and he is stronger than me, and I’m really at his mercy right now. So, I just have to hope he’ll accept my no and my like kind of hesitant no, because I don’t want to make him angry. It’s a very different no than the oh, I shouldn’t.
I don’t know because I think there are… I don’t know if you have a hard time saying no, you’re probably much better at asserting yourself. But I tend to take on other people’s emotions when I’m with them. Like I want them to have a good time. That’s what I do on my tours. And it’s why it’s such a good experience for me because I’m like… my good time is your good time. And it’s two hours, and afterward, we’re not supposed to get married to each other, you know, you are not like, oh, you gave me two hours of your time, it was great for you and me, now we have to get married. “You sent me the signal.” But with men, it’d be like we had such a great time. The signal I heard was you want me and only me, we’re married tomorrow. And for me, that leaves me in a position where I sort of have to take back my generosity and ruin that whole good feeling. And I have a really hard time with it. I have a really hard time saying no, not just because I don’t want to, but because I also want… I want something out of this that is to keep a positive relationship.
Yeah, no, I think I’m definitely better at saying no now than I was when I was younger. But I think it’s still something that’s hard for me. And I have a similar dynamic as you because I was telling you earlier that I have some issues with my parents, particularly with my father, putting a lot of the burden of his emotional processing on me. And because of that, I feel like I have to take on other people’s emotions and try to make them feel better and make them feel good. And sometimes I will displace my own interests because I’m trying so hard to keep them satisfied.
Yeah, yeah, what I have found, I do that, too. It’s so interesting that you bring these topics into the subject of individualism because I don’t, and I am also very interested in that question of extending yourself past what’s good for you, for other people. And I have come to understand that I do it not only because I’m strong-armed, but also because I derive pleasure from pleasing. I really, really want people to like me, unfortunately. Even when they’re using that to ignore what I want, and to ignore what I’m trying to… Like all I want is for us to have a good time, for you to be happy with me. And they might use it to say, well, if you want me to be happy here, then you need to come to my apartment or something.
I relate to that, too, because I’ve realized that I have this need for approval, it’s a need for validation, external validation. Like I try to validate myself and I feel pretty good about myself. But there is a need. And I think everybody needs some external validation – we are social creatures. But it does get heavy. I notice it most in the context of my job, where I’m not really into exactly what I’m doing and I don’t really feel fulfilled… I get my fulfillment outside of work. And so, there are things that I feel like I should do because I know it will make my boss happy. But it’s not really going to do anything for me. It’s not going to get me more pay. It’s not going to help me move up in the world. It’s not going to do anything for my own personal satisfaction. But I feel pressured to do it simply because I know it will make my boss happier. And that’s it. It is because I want her to look at me and be like, “Oh, you did a good job. Good job. I’m happy with you. I’m satisfied.” But her being satisfied with me doesn’t help me in any way really. Yes, I mean, she’s a good person, a nice person. So, of course, having a good relationship is good, and making her happy will go towards having a better relationship. But there are some things that absolutely do not need to do at all, but I feel like I should, you know? And I think there’s something deep, and maybe it comes both from our backgrounds. It’s something in it, where you’re trying to…
I know I have a problem where I try to seek approval from authority figures, even though I’m kind of anti-authoritarian. It’s very strange. But I feel like there’s this subconscious attempt to try to stay on the good side of authority figures. And I think that’s because of the experiences I had with my father. So even when we’re going out stickering, you know how I am always trying to be very coy and trying to put up the stickers very discreetly, because I don’t want to get on the bad side of law enforcement, whereas you are just… I’ll put it up anywhere. Who cares if the cop car is right there?
I think I will never see the cops the way you do. I don’t even see them in the first place. You are like, “You don’t see them? They’re right on the corner.” And then I’m like, Oh, I guess I should stop. But I learn experientially. And I have no experience with cops whatsoever. They don’t exist for me. They’re nothing. So, there’s that. But also, of course, I have a similar need to… I have a need to avoid controversy. Or upsetting anyone. That’s what my horrible background… I mean, that’s the horrible baggage I’ve come out of my childhood with. I think because it was so punitive towards any ruffling of feathers. So, I don’t care so much about authorities as much as I do not want to upset anyone. And the same thing, though, you come around to the same thing where your own interests become at odds with your own interest. Your interest to please and satisfy comes at odds with the interests of what’s really good for your psyche. And what’s really problematic with our culture now is that we don’t have a language to talk about the parts where our psyches get damaged, when, let’s say, the interest of not standing out and not looking weird, not being thrown out of a shop, in that interest, you should wear a mask. But in the interest of your psyche, you should not be walking around muzzled like some kind of biohazard…
Oh my god, yes. There’s so much to unpack with all of that. And it’s crazy to me… I have a friend who, and I tried to express to him my… I guess I will say animosity towards these masks. He can’t wrap his head around it. He has so accepted this as like almost an extension of his body at this point, that he can’t even understand that people could have problems with it. And I say… You are limiting your breathing. And I understand that you’ve gotten used to it. But that’s still a major deal, you are creating an impediment to breathing, which is vital to life. You can only go so long without breathing. So how could you not understand that this is a very big deal to interfere with people’s breathing and that this is going to make people feel upset, emotional, anxious, fearful. The breath controls your emotions, it controls your body. I just don’t understand how people can’t understand that. Well, part of me can understand it.
But then a part of me thinks that it goes into my whole theory about how… I think we’ve become so civilized that we’re really disconnected from our bodies. And so, this friend that I have, he’s very civilized, very into technology, very into technocracy and getting expert opinions and being at the forefront of science and all of that, but he’s not as into stopping to check-in and like meditate and breathe and reconnecting with the earth and the things that maybe some people sounds a little like woo-woo, out there. But no, these are things that we’re really meant to do as animals on this earth. There are things that… It’s so funny to me… if you look at science is always conflicting about different health topics – we should eat this, you shouldn’t eat that, you need more of this, you don’t need that. It’s always in conflict. But there are certain things that always remain consistent. And those things are things like you need to get sleep, you need to go outside, you need to exercise, you need to get sunlight. These are things that are integral to being alive on this earth. And we can continually dismiss these things. So, I think people who are so into this very modern progressive allopathic way of looking at the world completely dismiss these things that, even though science continually tells us that these are things that you need to be an optimally functioned animal, human.
Why? That’s what I keep trying to put my finger on. Why are they dismissing it? Has culture created this mockery out of the woo-woo hippie type? Is it the stereotype around the earth-loving…?
I think it’s deeper than that. I actually have a whole theory about this. I think if you look, I went to France and I visited the Palace of Versailles. And you look there, the idea of royalty, royalty had to be separate from everyone else. And when you walk around the palace, it’s fabulous, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful. But it’s so far removed from ordinary life. It’s so far removed from being an animal. It’s so far removed from nature. So obviously, the king and queen and aristocracy there didn’t do any farming, they weren’t doing their own chores. Like the king and queen didn’t even dress themselves. They had to have other people dress them. They barely lifted a finger to do anything for themselves. And that’s what signified that they were exalted, that they were separate, that they were chosen by God, they weren’t ordinary human beings… the fact that they didn’t have to act like ordinary human beings. And the funny thing is that the king, I think it was King Louis, I want to say XVI, and Marie Antoinette, they both, they grew up in this charmed world where they didn’t have to do any of these things. But all they wanted was to reconnect with nature. Louis just wanted to keep hunting. That was all he wrote about in his journal, he didn’t write about the political uprisings and the revolution, he was writing about his hunting days. And the queen was out creating a whole village so she could learn how to milk cows and bake bread and do things that ordinary people did. Like there was this craving to get back to nature. But because it’s so exalted, this idea there’s a status and privilege and fame associated with this kind of lifestyle, I think it’s deeply ingrained in our culture, that moving as far away from nature as possible is a good thing, that that means that you are a person of status, a person of privilege, a person of wealth.
So, everyone for centuries has been trying to be more and more like the aristocracy. And now we live in a culture where it’s like everyone can live like a king. We’re all supposed to be living like kings, right? That’s what being American is like. You even see it reflected in the economic classes today. The people who are on the bottom are the people who take care of the trash, take care of the mundane reality… Street sweepers, like those people, are the lower classes, the people who are blue-collar, the people who are actually working with physical things, people who are using their bodies. And the people who are at the top are the people who barely have to lift a finger, the people sit at a desk all day, the people who can work on a computer, who don’t have to do any movement, who don’t have to be out in the elements, who are as far removed from nature as possible. So, I think it’s just deeply ingrained in our society that being connected to nature makes you of low status. And we don’t think about it consciously. But I think it’s so… it’s subconscious at this point, it’s so deep in us that we don’t even realize it.
It’s an internalized sense of the hierarchy of… You use the word civilized, definitely not in a positive way, but in popular vernacular, it’s the highest aspiration. You want to be civilized, and being civilized is to refine ourselves beyond the animals, distance ourselves from the animal, and become more human. And I think in theory, this would appeal to me, I think, because it would say we’ve become more cerebral, we’ve become more intelligent. But actually, I think we’re aspiring to become more robotic, we’re aspiring to become more machine-like, more like technology itself… Which has been for me the realization. A year ago, I didn’t even know what transhumanism was. And I thought it was some freaky people who believe in coming back from… whatever, maybe it’s possible, maybe it’s not. I didn’t have a stake in it. But I think it’s the civilization’s next step, the permeating ideology of that removal of us royalty from the earth has been to turn ourselves not just into the most intelligent animal, but into actual objects, machines.
Yeah. And because if you look at it, too, you got people, I think it’s Elon Musk, who at one point was saying he doesn’t even eat or doesn’t even like to eat. There’s this mentality that our animal or human appetites are beneath us, we shouldn’t really be hungry. If we could just take a pill and get rid of our appetites, that would be great. Like we shouldn’t be sleeping, and sleeping is for when you’re dead. Like you need to just try to get rid of all of these things that we actually really need. And it’s just so bizarre to me, but there it is. So, I told you I’m reading this book now, the Importance of Living from the 1930s, I can’t remember the author’s name, I’ll have to get that to you. But it’s a philosophy book, but it’s a really lighthearted philosophy book. And he was talking about how he loves the Chinese philosophy because it accepts that humans are animals, and they have all these appetites, and it just accepts this. And he thinks that’s great. That’s what makes the world exciting. Because if we didn’t have these appetites, if we didn’t have greed and lust and hunger, we wouldn’t be doing all these interesting things, we wouldn’t have all these interesting stories. So, he was saying how we have to find this balance, it’s essential. You can’t aspire to the highest plane unless you can accept and reconcile that you have both the cerebral side and this animal side, and you have to have them conjoined together. You can’t repress one or the other.
Wow… That’s very… I find it really interesting to find how much good writing there is of old. I’m reading again now, and maybe I’ll quote it for an episode, the book Diary of a Man in Despair which is a Holocaust memoir, and this guy was hiding pages of the book around his yard because he felt like he was living history. And this is before war broke out. He started I think in 1936. And even in 1930, that wasn’t really war yet in some of his entries, but his diary ends in 1944. And he was so broken, physically so broken down by the war, and they took him into a camp for not wanting to enlist as a senior. Even older people were brought into the army. So, he was this really passionate, passionate man. So, what I was going to say is he died at the very end of the war, but up until that point, up to his death in the camp, we have his diary, and he writes scathingly against also technology as an ideology, this: man who doesn’t even examine his tool, doesn’t even stop to replenish the intellectual life from which the tools are created.
And I don’t know. I find it… you know what it makes me think? If they were already able to see it then, and most… I didn’t see it until recently, then… It’s very depressing because I think if the information could be out there for 100 years, the understanding that technology will change us in a way that will distance us from our bodies and create something scary, if it was out there all this time, and we’re like, oh, progress, more progress… There’s a story in the New York Times, ‘Has Progress Stalled in New York City,’ something like that.
Yeah, that’s what I’ve been feeling. The way I characterize the opposition to my way of life is to progressivism at this point, because it’s this focus on… the direction we’re moving is the right way. And the further we go, the better it is. There’s no looking back. To go backward is bad. And so, I’ve been doing similar readings of different things from history. I’ve been reading Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’m reading this book, Simple Living in History, these different things from various points in our history. And the same exact thing that has really struck me, too, is that all of these criticisms of technology that I’ve been making and other people have been making today, people have been making these for over a century, well over a century at least, probably more than that. And it is, it’s a little scary to think like they saw this back then. And we’ve already come this much further, Thoreau was criticizing the trains. He was criticizing trains as being too fast and ruining people’s lives and killing people. But they went ahead with that. And now we’ve got planes and everything, too. And then Ivan Illich, when you read his books, I had to laugh when he said – I can’t remember the exact speed limit – but he was saying that the speed limit for cars should be no more than like 25 miles per hour. Meanwhile, when I go… Last time I went in a car, and I was driving – it’s been a while since I last drove – but people were driving well over 100 miles per hour and that was the norm. And even though the speed limit was much lower, people were driving way faster than that. And so, these things, these visions they had of trying to halt progress, what’s called progress, and trying to halt progress, trying to slow it and trying to reflect and say there could be another way that’s better for us, they didn’t really succeed. And that’s really sad to me, because how successful are we going to be? I don’t know.
Yeah. And there was a climate for thinking. Most of these thinkers would be canceled today. They would be curmudgeons, they would be called right-wing, whatever labels would be applied to them to dismiss them. And all these so-called intellectuals, people with nice positions would be… I can’t stand it. I cannot forgive people who use their position to dismiss others without understanding them and their titles, and it makes it… We have such a barren intellectual climate.
Yes, absolutely agree. I don’t know. I put so much of the blame, though, on technology. I feel like it is all the fault of technology, social media companies, and this need to generate revenue. And I think where we were really led astray was when all the newspapers suddenly were losing their revenue, because now you could get all the news from some other websites and by going on Facebook and doing Google search, and you didn’t really need to pay for a subscription anymore, the subscription model collapsed. And so now they had to try to rework it. And I think they’re reworking of their financial model is what has led us to such dependence on what the audience thinks, such dependence on trying to make sure you don’t stir the woke mob, the crowd to come after you. And it’s just, it’s crazy.
Like, if you think about it, I was just thinking about this yesterday, the speed with which you can get feedback today is insane. Even in the days of television. Before the internet, you would have to wait till at least the next day, at the very least the next day, and probably even more than that. You probably had to muster up the energy to write an angry letter to really get your thoughts heard by whoever. It would take weeks, and you’d have to really care a lot to do that because you have to put in that energy. But now, people are commenting in real-time. There’s a moment you are doing something. So, people who are creating content – and I even hate that term ‘creating content’ because that even there, it’s saying you’re creating something for this market, you making something for these people instead of expressing yourself. But they’re making it with this hyperawareness that they’re going to get feedback immediately. And then because of the technology, it’s so easy to give feedback, people don’t even think about it. People don’t even have to be that invested in the feedback, they can just react. And the reaction, it may not even be that strong of a reaction, but it feels strong when you get it, right? Because you can’t read the tone online. And a bunch of people are all having this reaction at once. So, it speeds up this process of feedback and cheapens the feedback, but also makes it more intense. And because of that, we’re so much more beholden to it.
Whereas I was just saying to myself yesterday that it would be great if we could just get a movement to tell people don’t criticize people right now. Take a moment, wait a day, and if you really feel that strongly about it, write it in a letter and mail it. Nobody’s going to do that. Like you have to feel so strongly to actually do that. People will not write letters today. And so that’s what I’m saying. It’s just too easy now to give negative feedback and too easy to receive it. And it’s a lot harder to put yourself out there and stay strong in your convictions.
Yeah, I hate social media. I pay absolutely no attention to any of it. I go to John Steppling’s site to see if he posted anything; it has his Twitter feed there, and through his little Twitter widget, I’ll like some things. But I don’t otherwise do any social media myself. Because of these reasons, I think it brings out the worst in us.
I was reading this article that was really infuriating me, of course. And part of what really angered me was my pocket app was saying it was popular… and not many articles I read get the popular designation. And I got it on a friend’s mailing list where they send all the articles that they think are great reads, and it was about social media. And it was about social media isn’t the problem, we are. And it was all about how humans have been bad all along. Humans have been capable, even before, have been capable of mobbing and stoning. And okay, so three reasons – I don’t remember all three. One was the data doesn’t prove causation, it is only a correlation between social media and depression so therefore it’s not a problem. Social media is not a problem; humans are bad. In other words, to rely on data instead of any wisdom, analysis, or anything – the data is king, which really infuriates me. Like an absolute absence of any reliance on human cognition, the ability to apply our experience, intuition, wisdom to a situation. No. And this nihilism that really bothers me that you hear a lot when you say something about technology that’s bad that you get this response of humans have always been like that, don’t you know? All the time. It’s like people have been programmed to say meh, that’s how they all are. And that’s where the conversation ends. You cannot have a conversation if people are not willing to acknowledge that problems today are worthy of close examination. It’s like bread and circuses, eh.
Yeah, everything that you’re saying resonates with me so much. And I think this also… What you are saying about the data, trust the data and don’t think about your own reaction or experience, I think that to me, I categorize that as, again, the civilized versus the animal tendencies being science, supposedly scientific and trusting data, and supposedly objective information is that’s the civilized way to do it. And to take your own anecdotal experience and to learn from that, that’s too base, that’s too animalistic. Like you can’t trust that, that’s not objective enough. There’s such disdain for that these days. And you can’t…
Yeah, I’m getting very frustrated by the inability to question anything these days. People don’t want to. And it absolutely comes from social media. Social media has been developed to do these things. It has been developed to stir our baser instincts and to stir our emotional feelings and to try to use that to get more clicks and to keep us addicted and keep us in this constant state of agitation so that we are constantly wanting more and trying to get more, and trying to keep… It’s like an addiction to outrage. And all of them are using that because that’s how they keep our attention, and we are in this constant state where we don’t get to really stop and think and to use our more rational minds and to think about deeper questions. We don’t have the time to think about what is our philosophy of life? What should life be? We are just having it fed to us by these constant notifications that we are getting from social media. I actually, honestly, fully believe that social media is evil, and it is the biggest threat to humanity right now. I honestly believe that.
And I have such a conflicted feeling about it because I am on social media. I don’t use it a lot. As you know, I don’t even have the internet on my phone. So, I’m not a superuser of social media, but I haven’t completely gone off it. I feel at this point that, ethically, I should divest from Facebook. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I mostly go on it because I have these dance events that I like, and they are always advertised on Facebook, and so I want to keep abreast of what’s going on and what the events are. So that is my big hesitation with leaving it, and I hate that social media and Facebook have so gotten their tentacles into everyone’s lives that you have to think this way, that you feel dependent on that. And they made it that way on purpose.
You know what I think about social media, and talking about the dynamic of exploitation, which I think you see from the perspective of collectivism, but I talk about it from the perspective of abusive dynamics in relationships. And I think abusive dynamics in relationships are where one person is demanding empathy and their emotions to be central without acknowledging other people’s. And I think social media functions on a level of amplifying the abusive type, the kind of person that is like “Oh, my feelings, they are hurt, it’s terrible.” Because the empathetic person, the genuinely empathetic person tends to respond to that in a nuanced way that does not translate to social media, that doesn’t get likes, that doesn’t get the kind of exposure. So, I really think social media, by its very design, elevates narcissism and psychopathy. A person who like, “I am so hurt,” versus someone who is like, “I feel like I wasn’t totally there for their relationship, and he wasn’t there for the relationship…” No one is going to upvote that. But saying, “I am an abuse victim. And I’m a survivor and I am in recovery, xo xo xo.”
Yeah, there is a sense of status in victimhood now. And if you can say that you’ve been a victim of whatever situation, that you were deserving of sympathy and compassion, which I have no problem with sympathy and compassion, but there’s this, I don’t know, it’s like you are rewarded for it almost. And I don’t think that was always the case. I feel like in the earlier stages of social media, if you were to do that and to go… I guess it depends on the context, but I think there’s a lot of disdain for people who are using social media to kind of get attention, and we’ve gone away from that, and now that’s all it is, is trying to get attention. And so, because of that, you get rewarded now for portraying this victimhood online and it’s a performance. There’s a performative element to it.
There’s also a lack of reciprocity… I think for me, the red flag is people who are very willing to make a big presence of their pain, but their pain is mutually exclusive with other people’s pains. It is only theirs and anyone else who suffers is actually a villain for suffering. Like I am so in pain that I haven’t been validated in my whatever identity, and whoever has invalidated me is a villain just by that very fact.
Yeah, and I mean for me, that comes back to the internalization versus externalization where I think social media has exacerbated the problem of we need to externalize our problems. So I’m having all of these feelings, and I’m putting them out there, and now it is your job to make me feel better… whatever that means, if you need to hold back your own feelings at this time or you need to be showering me with a lot of attention, whatever it is, it’s your job now to make me feel better about myself, instead of me sitting and reflecting on why I feel poorly and what I can do to make myself feel better.
There is one guy, it was I guess, I forget when Coming Out Day… I think it is in August, National Coming Out Day. So, the day after National Coming Out Day, this guy, he’s not gay, but he came out the day after. He emphasized the day after because he said he didn’t want to steal attention from National Coming Out Day, but he came out as sapiosexual. Yeah, so it’s like I get so turned on by intelligence and this has been such a burden for me, it’s really hard to find people… We don’t really know each other, he’s more of an acquaintance… But to me, it was very off-putting. I think other people are critical of it, but mostly they are critical of it because he was kind of riding the coattails of National Coming Out Day.
There’s been this trend in recent years where every aspect of identity needs to be labeled and needs to come out of the closet. So, there are people now who are like… I’m only attracted to people when I’m emotionally connected to them; I think it’s called demi-sexual now. And it’s like. in the olden days that would just be considered normal. Like yes, you are connected to this person, you have an emotional connection, and you feel attracted to them, and that’s a normal thing. And now it has to have a special label. Everything has to have a pathology or problem or label, and then, you need to put it out there and have people respond to this label. It is very much about constructing an identity, constructing a social identity, instead of being more reflective and trying to…
It is just about performing, right?
Yes, performing instead of living in it.
Yeah, all the time. I feel like people are so busy spinning narratives about themselves and performing… They’re actors in their own B-rated terrible movies where they are heroes… all the time without any self-awareness about how ludicrous they sound.
Yeah, but it doesn’t sound ludicrous because everyone is doing it. It sounds ludicrous to us.
The New York Times had actually an article about neo-pronouns, and I thought they cannot be serious.
Yeah, I am not at all surprised. Did you hear there is a celebrity out there who has tree pronoun? So, you would refer to this person as like tree… I don’t understand fully how to use it because that is a level of narcissism that I cannot abide.
In the New York Times… people have objects as their pronouns or different things. Let’s say, I want pencil to be my pronoun so now you say pencil. I don’t know.
And they are taking it seriously? That’s crazy. There is a guy… you might have seen this, this guy now is the new Rachel Dolezal, he’s the transracial guy. He’s white, British, but he feels Korean, so he just had surgery to make himself look Korean. And he said during this video, he was coming out as non-binary and his pronouns were like them and something – I forget all the different pronouns. But one of the pronouns is Korean, and I was like wait, that’s not a gender. What are you talking about? So, he’s conflating his gender, race, national origin, and you can just choose these things now, and now everybody has to honor it, and they can refer to him as Korean. It’s such a mess. I don’t even know where to begin.
But I worry greatly about the mental state of people being brought up in this culture. Again, going back to this internalization versus externalization, like I am an internalizer, so this is maybe why I recognize it so much. Like when I have a problem, if I have any pain or anything, I try to sit down and I try to figure out what I am feeling, I try to identify it, why am I feeling this way? And if I am upset with somebody, for instance, I try to figure out where it is coming from… what am I really upset about, and then I try to set appropriate boundaries. I realize I cannot change other people. So yes, I feel like this person upset me, but what I am really upset about is this, this, and this. And I can’t make this person stop doing this, but I can say I’m not going to deal with this person on such a level, whatever. I set the boundaries to protect myself. It is my responsibility to protect myself.
But we are living in a world where people are not encouraged to do that. They are not encouraged to sit and reflect and think through what they are feeling. So, they automatically – and we always have kind of had this – we automatically blame the other person. You made me feel this way; you made me feel angry. Which is really abusive, you know? That comes from the cycle of abuse. The abuser will tell somebody that you made me feel angry, and it’s your job to not make me angry. Now we’re doing that on a mass societal level. We are saying I have these negative emotions. Other people made me feel these emotions, and now it is their job to try to fix this and make me feel better. But it is a losing situation. You cannot win on that. It is not possible because there is no rational objective basis for that. It is a completely subjective thing. So, there is no end to the craziness you might have to do to make someone feel better about themselves. And if they are not doing the work on their own to make themselves feel better, you’re going to keep spiraling downward. You are going to have to do more and more. So, I feel like we are in a massive cycle of abuse on a societal level.
Yeah, and I think the entire industry of serving to people’s narcissisms of whatever identity they’ve come up with, it’s so hard to even understand how it isn’t self-evident that living like this with a degree of self-branding, my pronouns are this, my orientation is that, it’s not only demanding of other people, it is also an alienation of the self. It is a complete alienation of the self.
Yes, so I see all the time… Someone will go on to Reddit for instance, and they will pose the question, this is my life, this is this, this is that, I have this relationship with this person, I did this thing, I had this thought, and am I this label? Am I? Am I? You can feel it, you can feel the frustration, their whole, their happiness, their life, everything is riding on the answer to this question. But it is like why do you need the label in the first place? Just be, just do you. If you like this, you like that, you like kissing that person, or you’re attracted to that person, or you like doing this thing, do it. It is fine. You don’t need a label to do it. Just keep doing it. Eventually, you will figure it out. And I used to… when I was younger, I was more into labels, although luckily social media isn’t what it is now so there wasn’t this urgency about finding labels at the time. But I would always, you know, I might feel a certain alienation, I am like oh, why do I feel different? Maybe there is something out there, and I would look for a label, not the label so much, it wasn’t about having the label. It was about trying to understand myself and why I might have felt different, why I might have felt alienated, and how I could find other people. But that becomes so reductionist that it’s now more about the label. It’s about having this identity to express as opposed to trying to understand yourself and trying to find others who are like you.
I think, for me, this comes around to the whole idea that you must package everything in the language that is understandable to the machine. I am these X elements, you feed it into the machine, and you get your quotient. It is part of understanding ourselves in a compact way that a machine can understand.
And that is exactly why I think online dating is horrible. Because it is the same thing, you’re trying to reduce an individual into a bunch of labels and categories, and it is not human. People are complex and they are fully-fledged, and they are imperfect, and they are not… like you see so many people, if you have gone to online dating sites and you look at their profile, there are so many people and they have a list of things that they want, which I mean how else are you going to express what you want … technology forces you to try to start thinking about people in that manner, as a list of things. And then there will always be people who are like this is what I want, and they have like a whole profile of a list of who they are, or who they want people to see them as anyway, and what they want. And then they will always have some line like if you like this one thing, don’t even bother to message me. And it’s like why would you be so reductionist? Like you might have the perfect person, but because they like a certain television show or a certain type of music, you think they’re going to be incompatible, it is just so bizarre.
The whole concept behind… I remember listening on the radio once to a program about a woman who came up with an algorithm to find her perfect partner, and that is how she found her husband. [Can’t find the article, it was just like this – or was this.] For online dating, she made a whole spreadsheet of all the attributes, and I thought wow, that is so amazing. I really fell for the whole technocratic thinking. And I was like that is so efficient, that is so streamlined, that is quantifiable, it is foolproof. And then all you just need to do is go onto OkCupid and you see that the cumulative effect of looking at a person’s profile and their height and their weight and their sexual orientation and their smart, witty byline… And yet you do not know them. You simply don’t. Because this human being cannot be translated. That woman’s algorithm was such a lie. I mean because OkCupid of course would love for us to believe it, but no matter how many questions you are going to answer on OkCupid, you’re still never going to get the essence of the human being. But technology makes us think about ourselves in the language of the machine.
And I think that is where I think a lot of people have lost touch with their own psychology because the language of the machine says, and this comes back to data as well, we don’t find a problem with masks because we haven’t discovered any data that proves it is harmful and we haven’t… it is just a cloth, and so far it is not a problem and it protects others, therefore it is good. And it is like that is maybe the language of the machine where you rely on data, but if you actually look at the essence of the human, then what the heck? Doing things these things to yourself… is extremely affecting, especially to children. This is not just masks, it is having a Zoom date. The New York Times had Valentine’s Day… I looked at that article, I was like what the…? I actually did one of my episodes talking about the New York Times had a perfect love code where you can do a unique heart shape and they give you the code to it so you can send it to your Valentine, so your Valentine gets a unique heart…
But I bet there were so many people who did it.
And cumulatively, there must have been some people who got the same heart which is a real betrayal. Because it wasn’t original, it was supposed to be an original mathematical formula. Each heart moved the angles, the formula was just for you. Is this a to the power of a + b times x squared formula….
It is so weird, it is so weird. And yet, going to your point about the study of the masks, or lack of studies, I’m getting so frustrated now, as you can see – I’m putting my hands to my forehead, I’m so frustrated. But I am so frustrated with the idea that something can’t be real unless there is a scientific study to validate it. It has to be proven by “science,” which is such a misreading of science. It is so bizarre. But I get this sense there are people who really will not believe something exists unless you can show them an imperial study, which is bizarre. Everything in the world exists regardless of whether we study it or not, regardless we observe it or not, things still exist. So, it is so strange to me that people cannot conceive things being possible without things also being observed.
Yeah. You know what? I recently read a very interesting thought in the comments section of Off-Guardian, but it struck me, someone said anything you don’t experience directly is an article of faith. Only your empirical direct experiences are not an article of faith. Because if I see a microphone in front of me, and if I see a desk, a pencil, then I see it. That’s why I know it’s there. But if you tell me that there’s a pencil, then I might believe you because I trust you and I think you are not the kind of person who would lie to me. So, I have faith in you, which is not a kind of religious, some kind of woo-woo faith. It is a quite simple faith. We go around life having faith all the time in a nonreligious, nonspiritual way.
I was trying to write an essay about it; I couldn’t get it to flow right, but I was trying to write an essay about this exact topic because I was getting very frustrated at the way the word fact is thrown around, information, misinformation, disinformation; I’m getting so frustrated the way these things are thrown around because I’m realizing people cannot tell the difference between fact, opinion, belief, hypothesis. Like there are so many, speculation. People don’t really seem to understand there is a difference. When you see these fact checks – I’m getting so sick of the fact checks. I’ve seen people like… opinions are getting fact-checked. You cannot fact-check an opinion, it is subjective. You can’t prove it true or false. It doesn’t need a fact check, you know? But it is not really about truth, obviously. Clearly, it is more about propaganda than truth.
But I have friends who are really, really smart, very highly educated, and they’re very forceful in their opinions, as most people are, but what gets me is when they express their opinions and they say they know this, they know A, they know B. But what they’re really expressing is a belief. They are saying I have this amount of data that I got from this place, and I believe that this person’s interpretation of data or my interpretation of data is true, and I believe that this is what’s going to happen as a result of this. But that is all belief, but they say they know it and they think it is a fact. And once they think their beliefs are fact, then that gives them the right to start censoring other people because anybody who disagrees with their belief is now false, even though technically you can’t be false because it is not a falsifiable statement that they are expressing.
I think the reason they believe they have the upper status that they have, the position in which they can say their information is superior to others is that they believe in the professionalization of information and of knowledge and of education to an absurd degree, to a mindless degree. If it comes stemmed from a prestigious place, then it is good because it comes through this institution that sanctifies… Anything that doesn’t come through these professional avenues they don’t respect. And the whole concept of the professionalization of life, of friendship through psychology and therapy, if you have relationship problems, you must go through a psychologist, or child-rearing through all of these institutions of rearing a child, education, all of these things are constructs that are liable to have flaws of the human conflicts of interest. Like there are money interests in all of these institutions. And people refuse, absolutely refuse. Even those people who are being crushed by the system who are not able to do what they are talented at because they don’t have the right degree, still I find have this kind of faith in these kinds of professionalizations of human wisdom… to an absurd degree…
And it’s really frustrating because if you look at the past, people had to be all around… They had to be good at everything. They had to be good at living. They had to be able to create their own shelter, create their own clothing, take care of their family, rear their children, educate their children, to possibly go out and make a living. But they had to do everything… they had to support themselves. And now we are living in a time where people cannot do any of that really because all of that has to be outsourced to professionals. You are not going to build your own house, you are not going to make your own clothes, you are not going to farm your own food, you are not going to… And I’m not saying that this is ideal, that we should necessarily do all of those things, but I do think we lose something in not being able to do any of those things.
And then the result is that we all have one task, we all have the one specialized task that we do, and that is who we are, that is our identity, and we are, as a result, very dependent on this system. We are very dependent on the government, we are very dependent… because we don’t really know how to live anymore. We don’t know how to do things for ourselves anymore. And this is where inequality and exploitation come in, because now, in this kind of system, you have to have money to be able to do everything you want, to have all the attributes of life that make life livable. You have to be able to pay someone to do all these different things for you.
And that is one of the things that really frustrates me about New York City is there is such an elitist mentality by a lot of people, obviously the people who have money, where they go to work and they make all this money, and then they can go and have someone else grow their food, buy their food, bring their groceries to their home, cook it for them, they can have someone else do their laundry, they can have someone else clean. They are paying all of these people to do these things for them, and then those people are being paid a pittance so they can’t afford to have other people do these things for them, so they have to go and do this labor for somebody in the elite category, the elite field, and then, they have to go home and still do all these things for themselves because they cannot afford to have someone else to do it for them. So, they are getting doubly crunched, and it is just a horrible system.
Are you going to leave New York City? You are one of a handful of people who are still giving this city soul. We can’t lose you.
Thank you. I am definitely going to leave at some point. It is not going to be anytime soon. I am still trying to figure out where I want to go. But first of all, I feel, I just feel discordant in this city. I don’t really feel like I fit in. Like the life I want, I have been thinking more and more about my philosophy of life and what I want out of life. And I feel like this city is very antagonistic to those things. I want a slower-paced life that is more connected to nature, and I do my best to live that way here but it can be difficult, especially since the city is so expensive and I have to try to work to keep up with the expenses of this city. But then I am very concerned about the future direction of technology, and we are going to be at the forefront of all the changes in technology. And I can foresee a day where like my landlord puts in a smart refrigerator in my home or something, or my refrigerator needs to be replaced and I won’t be able to object. I can see like there are going to be all these waves of technology coming at us, and I am worried I won’t be able to opt out. And I think I could have a better chance of resisting and opting out if I am living somewhere that is not so technology minded as New York City.
So, you get land…
Yeah, get some land, try to grow my own food.
For the record, Addison is afraid of animals a little bit.
Yeah, so if there is a young gentleman out there who is good at animal husbandry, maybe we can make it work….
Better bets here than…
Yeah, better than OkCupid, right?
Ideally, I would like to be somewhat self-sufficient. Especially in this past year, I feel so much that being dependent on the system and not being able to produce things for myself gives other people control over me. They can tell me what to do with my body, they can tell me whether I have to inject something into my body, whether I have to wear a mask, where I can go, how I can go. Like I just… I want to be free. That is my ultimate aspiration, and I feel like it is very difficult to do in this city. It is getting increasingly difficult, and I think technology is going to make it even more difficult. And I would like to try to get some measure of independence so that I can have some control over what I want my life to be.
Well, for my own record, for my own soothing, just so I can listen to it again because we had this talk a little earlier about the value of freedom, I just… I struggle so much to get people to appreciate why freedom matters. They are like freedom, what? It doesn’t give you any money; it doesn’t give you a degree anywhere. Who cares about that? And they look at you when you make sacrifices for freedom and they tell you that you are lying, that you are probably doing it because you can’t handle the more honorable path, so to speak, that you can’t handle the workload of going the traditional path to success or something like it. And I find it so frustrating because whatever I can handle it or not, that is entirely beside the point because what I am trying to communicate so desperately is how vital it is for me to have the freedom that was for me extremely hard-won, extremely hard-won, and to maintain it. And people simply think that freedom is not worthy of anything.
Right. And I don’t know, I think there is a lot to unpack there. I feel like part of the problem is I think people have lost a lot of free will in this society. Like you recognize, once you have a job and you are employed and someone is paying you money, you have already lost your independence at that point. You have already lost your ability to express yourself fully, you’ve lost your time, you’ve lost control over various aspects of your life. And people are so used to it that they don’t even realize it, and that to them is freedom still. That is what they think of as freedom. So, the fact that someone else can recognize that that is not really freedom, they can’t… And maybe they don’t even want to acknowledge it because they don’t want to admit that they are not free.
But I’ve noticed… I mean that is why I’ve gone on this self-sufficiency kick is over the last few years, I have started to realize… wow, I really am not free. I don’t have free will. I am doing all these things that are meaningless to me and I am doing them because I feel like I have to. But I don’t know, I think maybe other people rationalize it, they say yeah, this job sucks, I really don’t like doing this job, but I don’t want to be a pauper. If I quit this job, I am not going to have money and then life is not going to be as convenient. I won’t be able to travel, I won’t be able to… So, they will rationalize that. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if they reflect enough on what freedom is and what freedom means to really think about it. I think about it as… I thought about traveling, I like traveling, I would like to keep traveling, but working all year at a job that I hate where I want to escape my life, where every day I want to escape my life, is that worth being able to go on a two-week vacation so that I can feel good two weeks out of the year? Like maybe if you are actually free and you actually have control over your life, you don’t need that two-week vacation because you don’t have to escape the life that you have.
And the entire process, I think… I think John Steppling writes about it, I think so, he wrote about the tourism industry, that travel itself, the act of luxury, has become a chore. People have… a part of their obligations to maintain life are to go and recover so they can come back and continue to work.
Yes, and people talk about that a lot with meditation and yoga, like… they are kind of like doing a… Somebody came up with a great term for it. I can’t remember; it was like a McDonaldization –McMeditation or something like that… I can’t remember the author’s name, he wrote a whole book about it. But yes, these things are supposed to be more radical. They are supposed to be more about trying to get your mind conditioned to freedom, getting your mind to be free of all of these undue influences outside of your life, get your mind to be free of undue appetites, burdens, and toxic emotions and try to control your mind. And now what we use these things for is just to keep us relaxed enough to go back to work and do it all over again and keep grinding it out and letting the system burn us out. So, we are using these tools instead of using them to criticize the system and resist the system, we are now using them to keep the system going.
So many people are complicit in keeping the system going. They are too self-interested. Their self-preservation is too important to them that they would rather the system stay alive because…
That is basically what I have come down to; that everything that is happening in our political system, at the end of the day, comes down to people are trying to maintain the system. And I notice it because there can be so much hypocrisy especially with people on the left. Like I am not going to criticize people on the right as much. I am sure people who are on the left have their own criticisms of them. But I’ve started to get very frustrated with the hypocrisy I have been seeing in the last few years. And I’ve realized it’s because, at the end of the day, no matter how much people say they care about inequality, how they care about racial justice or care about civil rights or whatever it is, at the end of the day, they’re always going to take the action that helps perpetuate their own lives, which often means perpetuating the system.
So, I get so upset nowadays with the direction of the supposed left because it is never criticizing the system. And I think so many people who are at the head of these civil rights movements and these leftist movements are all people who are very privileged, they’re well off, they’ve been very educated, they probably have second degrees, professional degrees, and as a consequence, they are so mired in the system, and they benefit so much from the system that they are not going to be the ones to attack it. And so, they are leading all of these people who probably do need to criticize the system, who aren’t benefitting from the system, but they don’t have the energy or the time or the sophistication or the bandwidth to be able to really attack the system. And the people who do are not going to do it because they are too invested.
It is quite depressing.
And this is why people don’t want to think about things in a radical manner.
But talking to you is not depressing. The reality is. But talking to you, I actually feel a lot better. Also, because you take initiative. A lot of the attitude in the city has been by people who are like, whatever, I’ll move out and I don’t care about anything. And even though, I mean, we all might have to move out. I hate the thought. I like the city. I like that you can stop in and look at an oxtail stew or whatever that green sludge was… I love city life. I love that you carry your dancing equipment with you and find a band on any corner… But it’s a shame. But I think we don’t know what the future holds. We might have to leave. But for now, I really feel like we need to try in our small ways.
Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t feel so pessimistic about it in general because I know we can overcome the system if people band together and you get enough people together. But I do feel pessimistic these days just because I think technology is really a big problem, controlling the way people think and separating us and keeping us divided and keeping us from associating with each other and sharing these ideas with each other. So, I’m really concerned going forward that there’s going to be… There is already so much censorship and I’m scared there’s going to be more control over how we express ourselves and limitations on how we can express ourselves and limitations on our ability to connect with like-minded people and criticize the system.
Yeah, and to find people with whom to homestead, charming and handsome. Well, I’m going to let you go. I wish I could offer you some of the chollent we have sitting in the crockpot, but I don’t think it is done.
Oh, that’s alright. I am still full from the Haitian patties we had.
Well, thank you. Always lovely. Snoopy is telling us we got to go.
Thank you for having me, and I should also add that I don’t really write very often, but when I do, I am writing on a website called modernheritic.com. So, if you want to hear more of my thoughts, however sporadically, visit modernheretic.com.