September 1, 2021 #33 of Podcast: Addison Reeves on the need for a new political typology
Another conversation with the wonderful Addison Reeves, on the need for a new political typology, which she wrote about for her blog modernheretic.com. Check out Addison’s other powerful writings like her essay “It’s just…” – Why I Won’t Submit — modernheretic, Imperialism: The Antecedent of Contemporary Illiberalism — modernheretic and Progressive Hypocrisy, White Supremacy: How the Pandemic Revealed Progressive Pharisaism.
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For this episode, I talk again with fellow rebel and wonderful New York fighting spirit Addison Reeves on the subject of her recent essay, A Political Compass for a New Millennium. Since I recorded some earlier podcasts with Addison, Addison has published a few essays that have been circulated widely and that resonated with a lot of people. One of them in Off Guardian was “It’s just…” – Why I Won’t Submit, an essay on the tendency to just say “It’s just…” to minimize the cost of all of these health measures, and she makes a very, very strong argument for why it is not “just,” it is ultimately the cumulative value of what it is to be human. She also wrote a very cogent article for Left Lockdown Skeptics on progressives and imperialism as well as other really good stuff on her website. This one, A Political Compass for New Millennium, is an exploration about all these political boxes and categories, something I think about, a very big subject, and it’s something that we talk about when we talk off the mic. So, I invited her to discuss this particular essay where she proposed two axes. One is personal sovereignty versus authoritarianism. That’s one spectrum. And the other spectrum is humanism versus technocentrism.
Addison Reeves (1:55)
How do I describe it? It’s so hard because it’s still a work in progress, and I’m still, you know, as I live my life, I’m trying to formulate these ideas about the world. So, I maybe I could start by describing my political journey and how I came to develop this typology that I’ve just recently posted. Like I said, I used to identify as liberal. And I always voted Democrat, but it was always a very reluctant, grudging vote; I really could not stand the Democrats for most of my voting life. And I really hate them today. But there was a time when I bought into a lot of the ideas that I associate with being progressive. So, I had a lot of faith in government, I believed very much in institutions. I think I was a little bit more on my compass to the right in the authoritarianism, I think. I wasn’t, I was not fully authoritarian, but I had a lot more faith in government power.
And over time, I had more and more experience with government and institutions, I’ve worked in government, I’ve worked in nonprofits, I’ve been on the other side as a citizen in these places, and I’ve come to realize how little they actually achieve the purposes that they’re meant to achieve. And of course, as you know, I came across Ivan Illich, and I started reading his work, and it resonated with me very deeply because I could see that what he was saying about these major institutions, how not only did they not fulfill their purposes, but they actually often undermine them and make people…rob people of their agency and their ability to provide for themselves. So, if it’s transportation and you have major highways, now this person is robbed of their ability to get around unless they have a very expensive car because you’ve made it impossible to walk or to bike. So that really appealed to me over time.
So, I’ve always been very left; I’ve always been very concerned about economic issues. I grew up in a single parent household, and we were kind of poor, though, I didn’t think of myself as poor at the time. So economic issues mattered greatly to me, and I wanted to go into a field where I could work on civil rights and civil liberties and inequality issues. And so that was my goal in choosing my career. And the more I tried to work on these issues in a professional setting, the more I realized all I was doing was perpetuating this system and perpetuating all the inequalities that I wanted to kind of fight. And I don’t think that it’s possible to work within the system and really change the system. So, I became more radical over time. That’s why I use the term radical to define myself because, at this point, I think you really have to dismantle a lot of these institutions if you really want to make progress on these things, civil liberties, civil rights, and equality.
I became more and more disenchanted with the democrats and the left in this country. I think first I was disenchanted with their support of the invasion of Iraq and their support of the Patriot Act. And then over time, I noticed there was less and less concern for economic issues which is really important to me. Class based issues and economic issues have always been dear to my heart. And I don’t see that represented enough. And so, a lot of the people on the left end up being very privileged, and when I say privileged, I don’t mean it in the terms of racial privilege. I mean, in the terms of economic privilege – people who always had a lot of affluence and don’t know what it’s like to go without and don’t know what it’s like to be poor and to be struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. So, I became very turned off, and I felt that the left wasn’t reflecting these things.
And at the same time, I noticed that there was a discord between myself and a lot of other people when it came to technology. And there was a lot that I was experiencing and a lot of mismatch within myself and the political system that I couldn’t really articulate. And this past year helped me with that a lot. I realized that a lot of the discord was due to the fact that I’m not into technology for technology’s sake, and I’m much more critical of technology. And I heard David Cayley speak on a podcast, and he mentioned that the political typologies are very flawed because you need to have a technology access to really understand people’s political motivations. And I found that to be so true, because so many of my friends who we were supposedly on the same side – we were supposedly both on the left, we are both supposedly voting Democrat, we’re both leftist – but we have completely different viewpoints on various topics, and I think technology tended to be the juncture between us where we would go our separate ways. So, I wanted to try to create something that reflected technology and reflected the different views on technology and reflected my own views. I don’t think any of the existing political ideologies really cover how I feel and how I see the world.
The other thing that, as I’ve come to understand my ideology better and understand that my ideology isn’t really represented, I’ve also seen that what we view as differences in the American political system, the Democrats, the Republicans, they’re really not that different. The differences between them are so superficial, and they’re both really representing the same end goal for the most part – there are some differences, I’m not saying they’re exactly the same – but those differences don’t tend to be ideological differences. So, it’s very frustrating when your two choices always redound to the same ideology, and neither ideology represents you at all. So, a lot of people end up feeling disenfranchised and apathetic, and they don’t really want to participate in politics because they really don’t have someone who’s representing them. The choices are so superficial.
So, you think that, this axis you created, the one between technocentrism and humanism as two opposite ends, speaks to me a lot. I think the future in terms of the fault lines in society are going to be drawn in that direction, between those who believe in technology as superior and those who believe in the organic as, you know, being the ideal or I guess I would say the state of how it is and how it is inevitably going to have to be, right? So, do you think that by creating these typologies, that you’re proposing that this could be a way of political representation?
Addison Reeves (8:10)
Yes, I’m trying to. I’m trying to reframe the discussion so that people won’t see in terms of these really short-term issues. You know, I don’t want it to always be about abortion or guns, or you know, even the lockdown stuff. The lockdown is very important, the masking is very important, but people are looking at it in such a short-term manner. So, people are thinking – I guess it is going to sound a little more critical, because I am from the lockdown critical perspective – but people are looking at their children going to school and saying, oh my goodness, I don’t want them to catch COVID, we need to have mask mandates, everyone needs to be wearing a mask, I don’t want them to get COVID. So, they are thinking in the short term about, you know, their children getting sick or not getting sick within the next few months.
But they’re not thinking of the long term about the relationship they want with government. And do they want government to be able to have this power? And where else could this lead? And then when someone challenges them on this matter, their response is generally to, anytime that you have a disagreement over ideology, the person who’s in the mainstream tends to look down on the person who’s bringing in ideological criticism. So, it’s usually they say they’re ignorant or they’re selfish, or you know, there has to be some reason why you don’t see the world the way I see it. And there’s not enough discussion of the fact that, actually, there are many different ways to view the world. And you have to take account for this difference. There are some differences that are never going to be resolved. If you think that government should have all the power to control every individual and be able to tell individuals what to do with their bodies, you’re never going to agree with a person on the opposite side who says government should never be able to tell me what to do with my body. And so, there are these ideological differences that are never stated, they’re never expressed, and so much of our political disagreements are because of these ideological differences.
I think a good example, you started to talk about education, is actually with regards to schooling, there’s the big debate – should children go to school with masks, should schools be open, should they be closed? You know, the paradigm has been framed as open or close. And the COVID faithful argue for closed schools or masked schools or vax only schools, and the heretics argue for open schools. But actually, where I stand and I think where anyone who’s concerned with the technocentric future should stand is we shouldn’t be opening schools only so that we can completely change the way it works and make it extremely intertwined with technology.
Andy Libson, who I interviewed on my podcast a few, I think, months ago, he said that they’re opening schools only so they can close them again, meaning they’re opening them so they can slowly rebuild the entire institution of education. So that ultimately children will be hyper wired, and schooling will be a hybrid between home and on the cloud and AI oriented versus personal orient. It is going to be a very… Alison McDowell writes about it, it’s going to be a very isolated experience. And I think that’s really what politically we should be discussing. You know, when they talk about are they going to have snow days at home, New York City Department of Education declared that on snow days, schools are going to still be operating, but it’s going to be virtual. And the whole debate was should school be open on snow days or should it not?
Addison Reeves (11:25)
I remember that.
And the real debate is should there be infrastructure to allow for virtual learning because virtual learning is an anathema. It shouldn’t exist. It shouldn’t be there at all for anyone who is critical of technology. But there isn’t that conversation, because as you said, the debate is so narrow. It’s been forced into such a narrow place that I find myself being squeezed into the debate in a way that I don’t actually feel strongly is where my heart lies. I don’t want to argue that kids should go to school with masks or whatever bullshit they’re making up, but in the meantime, they’re rolling out this horrible techno-education.
Addison Reeves (12:02)
Yes. And it’s so hard to discuss, because it’s a lot of big issues involved, and everyone thinks differently. I think there could potentially be as many political viewpoints as there are people. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s bringing a different perspective. And even with the schooling, like you’re going as far back, you’re talking about schools being restructured to be more technological.
But you could also look at it as, you know, people are saying should schools open or shouldn’t they be open? What’s going to be the effect of them being open versus being remote and all of that, but then someone might say, well, should we even have compulsory education? Should we even have public schools? Like there might be better ways for kids to learn. Like the school system, Ivan Illich wrote Deschooling Society, and John Gatto wrote Dumbing Us Down, and they both had major criticisms about the institutions of schools and how they were basically reinforcing a lot of the inequities that we have in our social system and our economic system, and how they weren’t really serving to educate, but they were mostly serving to indoctrinate people and to teach young people how to be obedient and to obey authority. So, some people might ask whether we should even have schools. But that would be seen as crazy. And that’s what I’m trying to get at, that there are some people who… the idea of compulsory education isn’t taken for granted in their political ideology, you know?
Or you might be seeing, with your example of schools becoming more technological, I completely relate to that because I know the New York Public Library System, last year, I was so frustrated because they instituted these thermometers that are facial, it was like facial recognition. It’s a video and you get your face, it looks like it’s scanning, or it is videoing your face, recording your face. They say, they claim they do not keep the recording. But at any rate, you could see that your face… there’s a camera and it’s capturing your face. And you have to put your face in this outline of a head so it can scan you and it tells you whether or not you have a fever, and if you don’t, you can go in. And I was very disturbed by this; nobody else really seemed to care. But I was disturbed for the same reason that you were concerned about the schools, because where is this going to lead? They’re saying this is temporary, but is it? Where it is a year later, and they still have it. And why did they have to go for that particular model? They could have gone, you know, basic thermometer that doesn’t target your head. I feel it was very purposeful for them to go with this model that captures your face and captures an image of you and could be used for who knows what. And I think it’s just going to be another step in the direction of more intense surveillance state. And so that’s a concern that a lot of people don’t ever talk about. So, it’s things like this that we never even discuss because our political ideologies aren’t represented.
So, on the one hand, you see the divide between… have we covered it? Would you say we covered it, the access between…?
Addison Reeves (15:00)
So, I guess I should also add that I divided the quadrants, I divided the compass into quadrants based on the axis, so if you are… for the more humanist, less technologically oriented and more freedom oriented, I labeled those people as radicals. And I don’t have all the different characteristics written out – I should probably have the essay with me.
Oh, I have them here, I have it here. You have traditionalists are the less technological oriented, but more authoritarian.
Addison Reeves (15:25)
Yes, more authoritarian, and those tend to be people who are more religious. So, you know, people who want…they like having authority, but they would prefer that authority to be in line with their religious beliefs, their spiritual beliefs. And then the third quadrant was less authoritarian, more freedom oriented, but much more technological. I labeled those people as libertarians. And I feel kind of weird about that because libertarian has, I guess, a lot of connotations, and I didn’t want to go there. I was trying to brand it in a way that’s distinct from how people might already see libertarians. And then the final quadrant is the more authoritarian quadrant and more technological quadrant and that one I labeled progressives, and that would be most people in our political system, certainly most of the politicians in our political system today.
Most everyone fits into that box, I think. I mean, how many Amish are there to put in your traditionalist box?
Addison Reeves (16:17)
Well, I don’t know, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Because I think that a lot of people haven’t given enough thought to it, they’re never asked, well, what’s your ideology? What do you think about these things? They’re just told, this is the way to do it, we want to have government doing this, we want to have all these things, and you should want these things, this is good, this is progress, and if you’re against this, then you’re stupid. So, they’re never given a choice. I think if you ask a lot of people about how far they want technology to go or how far they want the government to go, I think you would get very different answers. You might find people in the other boxes. And I don’t think the traditionalists are that… So, I think a lot of the religious right, I think there are a lot of people who are conservative and religious who would fall in the traditionalist box, possibly.
Or libertarian, there’s probably a big subset that falls into that as well. I did want to talk to you, and this is something that I feel like we brush on every so often, the difference between the authoritarian and the personal sovereignty, because I thought about it a lot during the entire COVID situation because the media framed those who opposed lockdowns or those who are critical as libertarians, if not Trump supporters, thumbs up Trump supporters. But the more generous framing was libertarians. And it was true that most of the original resistance came from libertarians. The left was almost entirely mum.
I had on my RSS feed, I had all these leftist magazines I was following, and I had to unsubscribe from all of them because I felt they were so orthodox and dogmatic. But the thing that I struggle or think a lot about is that if you talk about personal sovereignty versus authoritarianism, and you say – let me see if I can find it because I opened the essay, about economics, I wanted to quote what you said there – that you’re not going to write about economics because they’re already built into this.
Addison Reeves (18:10)
Yeah, I think economic questions tend to be a function of government power. So, it is going to come down to what you feel about government, which I know is a very controversial statement.
Well, I actually agree with it. And it’s why I have a problem with libertarians because, in theory, libertarians are “All we want is freedom.” But if you believe in a hands-off government, you’re not actually ultimately giving people freedom, you’re allowing for the most bullish economic forces to rule the day. Absent of government, you don’t have this quaint, perfect society, you have a free market deciding things. So, if you say the government is not going to put any limitations on, let’s say, industry, industry is going to end up, ultimately, moving towards a monopoly. The person with the most money is going to reinvest and drive down prices, so no one else can buy anything. So, it’s like the natural flow of water, just the same the natural flow of economics is towards a monopolized society by the mightiest, the most powerful economic forces.
And that’s why I feel like if you say I’m into hands-off government, then actually what you’re saying, you were saying that it’s tied into economics. It absolutely is. And you’re saying I’m going to allow essentially this Darwinian competition where whoever is most aggressive and greediest can win, and I don’t know, I don’t see that there could be another outcome.
Addison Reeves (19:40)
I know, I pretty much agree with you. That is why I do not label myself a libertarian. I know people are really… I’ve gotten called libertarian before whenever I started to express some criticisms of the lockdown or when I expressed some concerns about the expansiveness of government or just, you know, champion of individual liberty, I’ve been called a libertarian. But I don’t identify as libertarian for precisely that reason that you say. I don’t believe that completely unregulated capitalism would, I don’t think it could ever be fair. And I think it’s always going to end up intruding on individuals’ sovereignty if it is not limited in some way.
And I think, I don’t think he used this term within this respect, but David Cayley talks a lot about limits and having a constitution of limits, and I see that being applicable. I think you would need some limiting factor in advance, you know, to compensate for the lack of regulation. You would need something to say, okay, all individuals are, you know, owed such and such, they’re entitled to this, this, this, and this, and I don’t know what it would be. Obviously, people would have to decide that maybe it is a certain level of habitable shelter or clean air, you know, whatever. There would have to be some limits in place to make sure that every human being is still getting their ability to live a happy and healthy life.
And I’m not sure that will happen if you have completely unrestricted, and I don’t want to say commerce capitalism. And I don’t know if that’s unfair because I think some libertarians would say that what we’re criticizing really is kind of corporatism and the fact that today, what we see of capitalism is a lot of major corporations that have a lot of power and have the ability to control a lot of our political system and have a lot of ability to control individuals. And they would probably argue, libertarians, that we don’t have unrestricted capitalism here. And so, if you actually had capitalism without government subsidies and government tax relief and bailouts and all those things that help to prop up these major corporations, that it might look very different. I’m dubious, but I respect the argument because it is true, we don’t know what capitalism would look like without substantial government intervention.
Well, I think the problem with that argument is they’re discounting the fact that all the government subsidies and all the laws made in favor of big corporations are what happens when you have unregulated capitalism, when you have the free market allowing you…
Addison Reeves (22:15)
But then it is not unregulated anymore.
Well, it’s like with the paradox of tolerance – if you say we’re not regulating it, then the people who are the greediest are going to come in and force regulation. It’s never going to stay unregulated. That’s what I’m saying.
Addison Reeves (22:30)
Yeah. But so, I think we have an illusion of regulation today, though. So, I don’t know… Like the regulations we have in place tend to be… if you look at whenever a company engages in some kind of wrongdoing, they usually end up getting a slap on the wrist. It’s very whatever… When eventually their wrongdoing comes to light, it’s usually after years and years and years of wrongdoing, which becomes so egregious that a lot of people have been hurt and you can’t help but take notice, like there was a very good, I think American Scandal has done some very good podcasts on various scandals throughout history, and they’ve done some on Bernie Madoff and Enron, and it’s just insane how much regulation we’ve had in place and how many times the government probably should have caught on to some of these major scandals. And they didn’t even though these regulations were in place. And it is because we have these iron triangles that get formed with bureaucracies and the industries that they regulate, and they end up becoming buddy-buddy, and then nobody wants… Once the corporations are so powerful, the government never wants to go after… I’ve seen this in working in government, how the politicians do not want to go after these major powerful corporations. They’re always going after the little, small fry because those people have no political power. So, I don’t know that regulation is the answer either because the way it works today, the regulation tends to redound to the benefit of the major corporations anyway.
I don’t think, I wouldn’t support the regulations we have today. We obviously have a deeply, deeply broken system that is absolute trash. And anything that is supposed to be defending the good guy is usually just a front, for instance, the not-for-profits that are completely tax shelters for philanthropists. But I’m thinking about something completely else, something I’ve been trying to toy with in my mind, is if we need to restrict community growth to a manageable size. That’s what I’ve been thinking about, localized communities. And I think that becomes a controversial conversation because it creates boundaries and borders and in and out. And you know, that in itself… I don’t know, I haven’t explored it very much. But for me, something I’m toying with is if we have a more local society, then it might be the difference between local and global for me, because once it’s local, there is an ability to deal with things. The larger it gets, the more…
Addison Reeves (24:50)
And it is more human.
Yeah, it’s more human. And it also becomes possible to deal with things without creating these rigid criteria and rules. You can deal with things on a case-by-case basis or with a little bit of common sense, which is something is entirely abolished. There’s no room for common sense in a huge multinational corporation led society where everything needs to be a bureaucratized process because there’s no room…
Addison Reeves (25:15)
Right, and this gets into your pet peeves about the credit score because the reason why this credit score is supposedly needed is because people don’t know their neighbors anymore. They don’t know the people are dealing with anymore. You have to have a proxy now for actually knowing somebody and being able to trust them because you haven’t, you don’t know this person, you didn’t grow up with this person, you don’t live with this person. So now you have to have some third party tell you whether or not this person is supposedly trustworthy.
Exactly. I come from a community where you never used a credit score to rent an apartment, I was a landlord, I was a tenant. And of what I see with a credit score is if you’re an artist, if you’re a freelancer, and someone owes you money, you don’t get to take a bite off someone’s credit score, or you just run after them and you plead with them, please send the check ready. And sometimes, I work in freelance sort of, I don’t get paid, and you just, you know, you have to accept that that’s a loss and the person doesn’t want to pay you, or you can’t reach them. But who is able to, you know, destroy your credit? Obviously, it’s going to be the power in the big companies. But I don’t blame it on regulation, I blame it on the size. You’re working with de-personalized society.
Addison Reeves (26:20)
I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I think part of the problem for me is the assumption that everybody in society has to be a productive member of the economy. It’s very, very deeply ingrained idea. And if you, God forbid, you are critical of this idea at all, you are a lazy bum who’s mooching off the system.
But you know, I’m very into homesteading. And I’ve read a lot of books about people who are into operating off grid lifestyles, homesteading lifestyles, survivalist lifestyles. I’ve read Emerson, Thoreau, all these books about self-reliance, self-sufficiency. And there’s a great book called Radical Homemakers, too. And there’s a lot of talk about the family as a unit of production as opposed to a unit of consumption. And so, we’re so accustomed to everybody is constantly buying everything. You’re supposed to go get a job, make money, and then you buy your house, you buy your food, you buy your clothes, you buy this, you’re supposed to consume. So, you have two roles in this society, and it is to become an employee so you can make profit for someone else and then use your little fraction of that profit to then consume, and then, again, make money for someone else.
And I think there’s something wrong with the fact that everyone automatically has to be in this system. It’s very difficult to opt out of this system. And so that is part of what I’m trying to address with this political compass. Like I don’t think… I think 99% of people in this country don’t even question that you have to participate in the capitalist system as an employee, and some people get out of it by maybe becoming an entrepreneur, some people can get out of it because maybe they’re wealthy enough to get out of it. But most people don’t have a choice. And even if you want to try to go off grid, you’re tied to the system because you’re going to have to pay taxes, you’re going to have to pay property taxes, you’re going to have to deal with different institutions, you are going to have to deal with different costs that come with living in a society that is structured around consumerism. And I think there’s a problem with a free society that’s not free enough that somebody can actually choose to be a unit of production instead of just a unit of consumption.
Right. So that’s where you’re coming from in terms of the freedom versus authoritarianism, you’re saying…
Addison Reeves (28:35)
That is part of it. I mean, it’s not everybody. So, I think within the quadrants, there are spectrums within the quadrants, so not everyone who’s in a particular project is going to agree with everyone else. There would be more to flesh out. But that is part of where I am coming from, where I’ve gotten very frustrated over the years where I’ve seen that this is one of… it’s kind of like science, it is one of the things that you’re not allowed to question. There are all these assumptions we have as part of our political system that you’re not allowed to question, and being a productive member of the economy and creating growth for the economy is something you’re not allowed to question whether…
I don’t think my meaning in life is to produce for the economy and try to create a growing economy. That’s not meaningful to me. But if I say that to people, they say there’s something wrong with me, I’m a moocher, I’m lazy, I’m this, I’m that, I’m a bad person, I’m immoral because I don’t want to be the person who’s helping to grow the economy. That’s just not… you’re not allowed to question that. That has to be every person’s purpose in this society. And so, I think we need a political structure, a political typology, that is expansive enough to allow that some people are critical enough of the economy that they do not see a meaning or purpose in just growing the economy. And so that’s why I get frustrated with, you know, Marxism and communism, socialism, all those things. I think that’s an assumption there, too. In all of those systems, you’re still an employee. You’re still working, you’re still growing the economy. We don’t really have political discourse or political ideology that’s structured outside of this idea of growing an economy for a state.
Well, I think the idea of growing the economy is a very capitalistic concept because in capitalism, there has to be expansion for it to function. It’s how… it’s a way of living, that it needs to always grow, because prices get driven down because there’s… I guess I’m not the best person to speak to why and how capitalism works that there is, you see old markets get consolidated by monopolies or by technology that pushes it out, makes it less costly to create these things. So, you have to start and find new markets. So, the economy in capitalism always needs to grow. And that’s why we are all being recruited to help that noble cause of always making it grow.
Like for instance, an example would be it would be possible for generation after generation to live off the land. Right? There’s no need for growth. Your parents lived off the land, you live off the land, and that’s it. But within capitalism, you don’t live off your own land, so you have to buy, and then you’re part of this bigger system where everyone is competing. Right? So, I guess where I was going with that is I see this as distinctly driven by our markets, by our allowing so much power to the markets, to economics, to dictate in general our value in life. If you are not doing something, then the market says you have no value. What is to define you as a valuable person in this depersonalized world? No one knows me. I haven’t done anything for anyone to recognize me. Neighbors don’t know me, the community doesn’t know you. So, the only way to have any, to feel any sense of belonging is to create these useless things for the economy. So, I see it as a function… What I’m saying is I see it as a function of capitalism, of this huge economic system.
Addison Reeves (32:00)
Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I’m not sure that it has to be a function of capitalism. I know there are various people who have talked about trying to create a more gentle version of capitalism – not just gentle, it’s the idea of unlimited growth, endless growth forever and ever is just unrealistic. It’s unsustainable. You can’t, there’s only, there’s a finite amount of particular resources. Like you’re only going to be able to create so many iPads; eventually, the rare materials we use to create these iPads are going to run out, maybe they’ll find something else. But generally, the Earth is going to place limits on our ability to grow, which is a lot of why we’re turning to people and using people as products now to try to make money because you can tap into people’s potential forever and sell them endlessly.
But I think the focus has been on growth and more and more growth without limits. And I think that’s unreasonable. Unlimited growth is, it’s cancer, it’s a tumor. Like normally, in any other system in the this world, you could not have unlimited growth. At some point, it would become unhealthy, it would become toxic, it would become dangerous. And we don’t really, we don’t let our societal systems reflect the rules of nature. If we did, we would see that unlimited growth is not a great thing. But there are people who have been pushing to say we need to take the focus off of growth.
So, I could see possibly a model where, yes, maybe they’re still focused on some growth, but it doesn’t have to be only growth. Growth is not the only thing. If you had a government – again, this would have to be if you wanted more regulatory government – if you had a government that was more focused on happiness or health as opposed to, you know, expanding the GDP, if you had a government that was more focused on those things, maybe the individual and the family would be prioritized above profit. Maybe you could focus on another metric that isn’t tied to money and say, let’s measure, I don’t know how… It’s hard to even say this because it’s kind of getting into a lot of progressive ideology measuring happiness.
You could, in theory, have a government that says, okay, you know what, we’re going to measure the prosperity of our nation, not by dollars so much, but by, you know, how many infant… how many mothers died in childbirth, or you know, how many people live to be a certain age. You know, you’re going to focus on more human metrics, and we’re going to focus on expanding those metrics. And it would be debatable whether or not the government can do that and whether those metrics were worth it. But you can see a system in which they’re focusing on something besides financial profit. And maybe in such a system, maybe the business, maybe the economy and the market, maybe it would be a little more gentle. I don’t know. Maybe you would have bosses who, if they’re getting a tax break to make sure you live to such and such time, maybe they’re going to be more willing to let you take time off and go, you know, take care of yourself or take care of your family. I don’t know.
But the tax break from the boss is also a regulatory element.
Addison Reeves (35:06)
Yeah. Oh, no, no, no, I’m saying, yeah, I don’t know if we are talking…
You are talking about more regulatory intensive…
Addison Reeves (35:15)
Yes, we could have a model of the state that is as regulatory as what we have day, but their priorities are different. And so maybe, maybe in that system, the economy and capitalism maybe would be a more humane capitalism. I don’t know.
How much money do you want to bet on that…?
Addison Reeves (35:35)
I would not bet any money on that. I’m at a point where I am not in favor of this government and the hyper regulatory system.
Actually, Tessa Lena, who is also a New Yorker, and she’s actually, I just found out, a singer – I had no idea because I’ve been following her substack.
Addison Reeves (35:50)
Tessa Fights Robots?
Tessa Fights Robots, and she wrote, it really made the rounds, her essay on The Great Reset for Dummies. So, she writes about things that interest me. The Great Reset, it’s a very interesting part of this new economic technocentrism. So, she wrote about happytalism, which is apparently the next new frontier where happiness is the next capitalism, the more happiness you have, somehow this is going to be where people put their, I don’t know, hedge funders… I don’t even know what the whole thing is going to be. It’s going to be like you invest in the way you would do with mortgage – what’s it called – subprime mortgage investments, you would invest in communities’ happiness, you know, quotients. Which is such bullshit, like how do you measure happiness?
Addison Reeves (36:37)
I was just going to say… Obviously, I want people to be happy. But it’s such a progressive idea that we could take happiness and reduce it to a number and we’re going to figure out how to improve this number. And then who defines what happiness is? It is going to be defined by whoever can make it fit into this mathematical formula, which is probably not going to represent, it’s not going to represent the intangible things that actually make people happy.
Right. I play this, actually it is a homesteading game. I play it every so often with Seth, and we should play because…
Addison Reeves (37:09)
A homesteading game? I love it.
Yeah, it’s called Stardew Valley, and you actually start at a corporate office. There’s a whole cutscene in the beginning, you start in corporate office, and you’re so depressed and your boss is so mean to you, and you storm out.
Addison Reeves (37:21)
I love it!
It’s you essentially. Something happened to our character in the latest play, it’s not wearing pants, just underpants. So, it’s you without pants. It’s so, it’s so creative. It’s such a creative game in the sense that they have taken all these interesting concepts and they’ve broken it up into numbers, numeric values, and you realize that ultimately, it comes up short. Like there never… after a while, nothing makes sense about the way the crops grow and about the way the relationships go, you’re like this would never be how the world works. But it’s such a technocentric, I see it as such a Silicon Valley perspective on the world that you can take all of these, you know, all of the parts of life that are intangible, that are organic, and break them down into these measurable bits. You cannot measure the love of the non-player character. You cannot measure the growth percentage, like two points of growth, and if you upgrade your watering can, then it’s three points of growth. And you know, Seth does calculations on the calculator of how we can bring in the most crops in a day. And I’m like this is not life.
Addison Reeves (38:45)
And it’s not homesteading. It sounds it’s so interesting because, obviously, the narrative of homesteading and escaping the corporate life, I love that, but it sounds like the antithesis of what actually happens in homesteading and how they way you actually think about things in homesteading, people usually try to think about interrelated systems, not isolated inputs that you put together to form a formula and come up with some guaranteed output.
Right. If you put in one pumpkin seed on the land, then you get one pumpkin, and there is no inter… there’s no soil issue. There are no interrelated… There’s six days for the pumpkin to grow. And if it doesn’t grow, then you look in the wiki and it says, oh, you must not have watered it or you know. You know, for me…
Addison Reeves (39:33)
It’s so simplistic, too.
Right. But this is the system that Neil Ferguson, for instance, uses to model pandemics. It’s a number of formulas that you put together, and you say, oh, now I know what’s going to happen in the future because I’ve said 6% mixing in the train system and 10% mixing in families, and you know, you put all of these variables together and you say now I know what the outcome is going to be. I’ve created a machine of prophecy. I’m an oracle now through the magic of technology as, of course it doesn’t come through. It’s anti how life works.
Addison Reeves (40:12)
Yes, the chasm between these people and people like myself, it cannot be bridged.
They don’t understand. They think that they understand something that we don’t. They feel like they have something that we don’t have.
Addison Reeves (40:29)
Yes, they’re very condescending. They’re experts and they’re scientific. And if you don’t trust what they’re saying, then you’re not scientific enough and you’re not rigorous enough. And they can’t accept, and again, this is why I wanted to make this compass and why I’m hoping to put out a few more essays about this idea that this way of looking at the world through almost completely financial terms, very simplistic, reductionist terms where it’s not one whole interrelated system, it’s just separate inputs that you can move around to create whatever you want, it’s not, it’s their way of looking at the world. But it’s not the right way of looking at the world, it’s not the only way, it’s not the objective way of looking at the world. And they see it that way. And I hate it; it kills me. There are other ways of looking at the world that are maybe a little bit more traditional, maybe they’re a little less technological, but that doesn’t make them wrong.
I actually just read today a quote that really resonated with me, someone who is criticizing the machine model of biology – I don’t remember his name, I’m terrible with names – but he was saying what to certain people might seem like mystical, to other people is complexity. Because he was criticizing people who the moment you say something that isn’t this formula in a spreadsheet, would say, oh, you’re religious, this can’t be put in a spreadsheet, this can’t be reduced to a calculable number, then you’re talking about woo-woo or religion, you’re talking… If you say it’s more interrelated, then they’re saying let’s take it apart. If you can’t take it apart, then you’re talking about supernatural superstition, whatever. And it’s not, it’s just agreeing to complexity, and it’s so hard to talk about that complexity. It is much harder to have a conversation about it.
Addison Reeves (42:17)
I’ve thought a lot about, in the past year, about the microbiome, you know, with everyone using all this hand sanitizer, you know, a million times a day, carrying it around with them, sanitizing every surface they possibly can, and then also distancing from other people, trying to stay away from other people and limit your exposure. I can’t help but wonder what has this done to all of our microbiomes? I wonder about myself with regard to dancing because I used to dance with other people, and so I was constantly getting an exchange of our microbiota. And I’m wondering, how is that affecting me that I no longer have it. Is my microbiome completely changed because of this? I don’t know. But there are… See it’s not having a more holistic viewpoint of the world is not necessarily unscientific. There’s a lot of data to support that the microbiome plays a huge role in health. They don’t know everything about the microbiome, but they know that it does affect the immune system, it does affect the mood, it does affect all these different functions of health.
And when they’re making their decisions about what to do with regards to the pandemic, it seems like that was something that was just left out. The long term and the everything that didn’t fit into germs bad, avoid germs, that was all… everything was discarded, you know, whether or not you felt happy, whether you felt isolated, whether you were depressed, whether you were engaging in healthy behavior otherwise, whether these devices, I shouldn’t say devices, but whether these recourses that they were using in response to the pandemic were having any kind of collateral damage that might actually make you worse. Like if you are… maybe you’re staying away from people, and so you’re not at risk of getting the virus, but now you’re isolated, you’re depressed, you’re stressed out, you’re fearful, you haven’t been getting healthy microbiota, you haven’t been going outside and getting sunshine, you haven’t been exercising, like you might actually be in a worse position now because of all this other collateral damage that you’ve got from following all the advice because all they’re fixated on is avoiding the virus.
That’s really, really where I was from the very beginning. I couldn’t believe that we wouldn’t talk about these things. And everyone would say are you a scientist? I’m not a scientist, I’m a human being in the world who needs to go out. I don’t need to be a scientist to know that this is part of life. And you know, what struck me from the very beginning was why do people need to live with a 0% risk? Where does that come from?
Addison Reeves (44:42)
Me too. I mean, I think it’s just the media because normally people don’t live with a 0% risk. Like I know if I go… There are so many different ways you could possibly die in New York City, it’s unlikely to happen. The risk is so minimal, but I know it’s possible. I might step on an electrified metal grate and fall through one of those, one of those things that lead into the basement, those metal doors, I could fall through one of those trap doors and break my neck, I could be pushed off a subway platform in front of a moving train. Like, all of these things have happened.
Not to you.
Addison Reeves (45:18)
Not to me, but to people.
Addison Reeves (45:20)
People in New York City, yeah, thankfully not to me. So, it’s a risk I encounter every time I go out. But the risk is low. And I understand that it’s low. And so, I’m not, you know, I’m not going to stay trapped in my apartment because of this risk. And so, if you magnify something, if you look at, you know, everyone’s focused on COVID right now so that’s all they see. The risk looks much bigger than it is because they’re so focused on it. And the risk of everything else doesn’t look that big. If you were to focus on something else, drunk drivers or something, if you focus on that as extensively as you focus on this, people would probably be just as worried about that, maybe.
I think a lot of people are worried, if you scare them, especially if it’s an invisible enemy that’s everywhere, you really excite in them an OCD, some people get really OCDish. And other people, I think, if they’re told to worry and that it’s a virtue to worry, they perform it as a kind of virtue. You know, I’m now so worried. But I want to, I guess I want to hear from you before we wrap up, I want to hear what you hope the readers, you know, readers are so unwieldly, so if your readers could have any kind of reaction to the ideas you put out, what do you hope it would leave them with?
Addison Reeves (46:32)
I would hope that for most of them, it would leave them with a sense of relief. I would hope that people who, like myself, have been feeling politically alienated and politically homeless, that it would give those people a way to articulate why they’ve been feeling that way and a way to maybe express to others why they disagree with others and that it’s not necessarily a function of their being less informed or ignorant or, you know, whatever the pejorative is, that it’s different, that it is almost like a difference in religion, you know? I read a… I started reading the book Sapiens.
Oh, by Yuval Noah Harari.
Addison Reeves (47:15)
Yes, and he talks about myth and society and how we, you know, we need these social constructs to function and that it is so many myths that we use, and I think that people today don’t recognize how many myths we are relying on and we take for granted and how many assumptions are built into our political discourse. And so, I just want people to see, I want to make visible a lot of these assumptions and get people thinking about it and talking about it and asking themselves these questions and trying to decide if the things that are portrayed in the media, if that’s really where they want to go. Is that really what they agree with? I would love for people to ask themselves if that’s really what they want.
Who do you think, who’s that target audience? Is it people who are already disenfranchised or a larger…?
Addison Reeves (48:02)
I have a feeling the people who will resonate with it will be the people who are already disenfranchised. I think the people who aren’t disenfranchised are not going to see themselves in it as much. And I think there are going to be a lot of people who are so used to the old typologies that this will not resonate with them. But I think people who don’t fit into the old typologies as well, they might see some sense of relief in this.
I think the people who need most to become self-aware of the myths that shape their world are least likely to hear it. That’s something that is so depressing, that so many people are completely influenced by media around them and are adamant that what they believe is entirely coming out of their own brilliant minds.
Addison Reeves (48:50)
But I think there’s a missed opportunity where the people who disagree with those people don’t necessarily… I think there’s a lot of people who aren’t aware of the difference in ideology. So, they’re always debating on those people’s terms. And they are, I don’t want to say they’re losing the debate, but they’re having a hard time connecting with those people and making those people understand their position because they’re not realizing that a lot of the difference is ideological. So, you can’t throw more data at it, more articles, more expert opinions, if the difference is ideological. So, if you could get people to recognize that, it will help them to better communicate, I hope, to better to communicate with those people who are not going to read this essay.
It’s we got to start from someplace. We’ve got to attack it from some place. What did you cook for dinner? The one before the last question.
Addison Reeves (49:41)
Corn and shrimp chowder.
Oh, is it good? Did you eat it yet?
Addison Reeves (49:49)
Yes, yes, I did.
The really last question – do you want to update us on what’s going on in New York City or say any final good things? Because I’m trying not to end on a bad note, drag everyone down.
Addison Reeves (50:00)
Yes, let’s try to be positive. I will say I’m feeling much more positive right now than I have been the last few times that we met. There was the huge protest last Wednesday with many different unions represented, maybe not the union leadership, but members of the unions were represented. Thousands of people came out and that was very encouraging to know that, finally, people in New York City, finally, were protesting and pushing back against some of this government tyranny. This particular protest was with respect to vaccine mandates for employees. And I was very heartened not only by the attendance but by the fact that the media covered it and they weren’t completely disdainful. They still had their little narrative spin, but for the first time, I saw them treat the protesters with some respect and not cast everyone as some kind of crazy Trump supporter, right wing bigot, Trump supporter, which is what they usually do, they usually focus on the craziest, most fringe element of the protest, and then try to use that to dismiss all the protesters. So, I feel like we’re finally making some progress. And I hope people will see the protests, and the people who have been scared of being labeled a Trump supporter will now feel comfortable coming out and joining in some of the protests. And there was another protest on Saturday. And that one wasn’t as big, but it was still pretty big. And that one also got media attention. So, I’m hoping that this is a change in the air and that people are going to be more encouraged to come out and express themselves and protest if they were a little afraid to before.
I hope so. I hope so. And that, you know, when we were small, these nutty agent provocateurs, I don’t know, I can’t believe I’m saying agent provocateurs, it is such a… that expression itself is just to me speaks for living in such a different world. But there were these characters who showed up to our protests that made us look really bad and were mostly undressed. And I think we’re finally starting to drown that out.
Addison Reeves (52:10)
Yes, so this is the first time in about a month that I’ve started to feel a little optimistic. So right now, I’m in a more positive mood than I have been.
Yeah, we have to pace ourselves.
Addison Reeves (52:25)
Yeah, there’s a long way to go.
There’s a long way. And you know, I think we deserve to feel good a little bit after what? A year and a half of showing up to these things and thinking, oh god, what else can we do, you know?
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming again and for all your writing and your thoughts and your stickering and everything, just adding humanness to the world.
Addison Reeves (52:55)
Thank you again very much for having me. I appreciate it.