22.12.18

The Hijacked Self

I found a YouTube video for the latest Bill Maher show that someone had posted as a secret hack: another clip is spliced in first, a clip (apparently produced by Now This) of Rep. Tim Ryan (Dem - OH). He’s addressing the House regarding the recent General Motors plant closure in his district.



More broadly, Ryan ranted about what he called our system of ‘supply chain economics’, otherwise known as ‘trickle down economics’ or just Reaganomics, circa 1980 (which was based on Reagan's personal opinions, not economic theory or science).

Ryan’s angry point, repeated as a rhetorical question, is that if this economic ‘philosophy’ has been so great, why hasn't it benefited and protected workers in the heartland? Instead, he railed, when a plant is closed thousands of workers are sacked, but the company’s stocks rise. Clearly, this economy was not built for employed workers. Nevertheless, his solution is political action to increase manufacturing jobs for American workers.

Killed by Hard Work


In the past days a piece of related news has emerged: coal companies and mining authorities that have failed to make Black Lung (from silica dust) a transparent issue, which has created thousands of cases of coal miners in Appalachia who are suffering and dying from this condition. Yes, this is news now -- this is not the distant history of our Industrial Revolution.

The beleaguered coal miner could symbolize the country’s generic rural laborer or worker, but on principle we could expand this image to include all levels of employees in urban areas, too.

I wonder whether being employed as a mere ‘worker’ for any company that treats people as a cheap human resource is more dangerous than being downsized by such a company -- not only in these examples, but in a much wider sense. I wonder whether the real problem that should anger Rep Ryan (although we can admire his passion) is not the loss of automotive manufacturing jobs, but the vexing and covered up fact that those jobs suck, to boot.

Actually, the very ideology of workers, whether in a factory, farm, mine, or office -- including their unsafe employment by inhumane corporations -- truly sucks for a variety of reasons. But the identity of worker is not bad because of bad employers; arguably it’s bad because of employment itself, with its deleterious mind modifications. How could that be, when our society generally glorifies getting the ‘good job’, associating this with being a success?

Forty Years an Employee


If we’re on the right track here, in questioning employment, then we probably will find that this leads toward problematizing the whole economic paradigm that includes the Trickle Down dogma: the cunningly adaptive state of affairs that creates the super rich minority and the working poor majority as its status quo.

I would argue that the trouble lies not in any specific political program; the real trouble lies in the ways that mainstream ideology is conditioned by notions such as:

  • having a job is good
  • mass employment is good
  • being an employee is desirable and respectable.

But, who or what does this basic chain of statements benefit most?

Doubting employment, if it's a smart path to take, should hold up even in the example of someone who heroically quits a job to start one’s own company -- a narrow version of entrepreneurship also valorized in society. Yet, this newly hatched bourgeois Owner likely replicates the pattern of employing others as cheaply as possible (using them, utilizing them -- perhaps growing a thick scaly skin as barrier toward the suffering perpetuated).

Doubting employment must hold up in many other examples as well, notably the fraction who say they love their jobs, or, jobs that we could deem absolutely necessary (paramedics, police, President). We should be looking for objective and highly contextualized, historicized ways to agree that a given job is good, rather than just the feelings and opinions of the person who fills the role. Such counterexamples would need to be carefully parsed for any positive notions about employment or a specific type of job that are just social conditioning, which blinds workers to the actual bargains being struck for their efforts and time (their lives).

In either case of employee or employer, the practice of employment, the institution, is far more questionable than any factor that can alter the qualities and experiences of being employed, or employing others -- after all, there are lethal job sites in both the heartland and in the city, while even good or cushy jobs anywhere often are won through ‘cut-throat’ competition, and demeaning prequalifications. And still, such jobs are considered good or lucky to have (even when ends justify means to obtain them).

Not So Simple


I think the strongest point to make about this issue is that it’s not only a simple situation of Power abusing the unempowered, of people getting conflated with things, objectified, confused with a resource; rather, this is a more complex situation of the populace having been steadily terrified over generations (a continuum could be traced through the Feudal Age to the present day). People have been coerced into accepting self-defeating beliefs about not only Self but also about:

  • work, labor, livelihood
  • existential responsibility
  • how society actually functions
  • the real resources and wealth of this world, 
  • and other things.

It’s an oppressive force exerted upon folks not from the outside (like a blunt, visible, old school form of brutality) but from inside their own minds, so that they cooperate to oppress themselves. It’s Bob Marley's inkling of ‘mental slavery’. It’s like inmates acting as their own wardens (a la the film My Dinner with Andre).

Ultimately, this conditioning and hobbling of people’s very identities, their core beliefs, serves to hoodwink them comprehensively -- and thereby to extract cheap labor from them, as efficiently as possible (on all tiers, but relatively). That’s the bottom line, the rock bottom.

Hijacked ideology is the core problem when it comes to the issue of good jobs for Americans; and to that extent, it is people’s own responsibility to awaken and accept the dire situation, in order to understand it fully.

Where does this path of thinking generally go? What goodness could there be in challenging the hegemonic institution of employment? Where would such disruption lead people, or leave them? And, who would they be in that defiant position, and how then would they know themselves? How might society change when traditional employment implodes?

These are very promising yet difficult questions to ask.

PS -- After drafting this, driving, and stopping at an intersection, I chanced to see a homeless man on the corner who waved smilingly from his squatted position. I read his cardboard sign, which stated, ‘The struggle is real. God Bless.’

Become a Patron!
Using Patreon, sponsor this post for $2 or more -- thank you!
Or, support this work using my PayPal portal

24.11.18

What Is Mind Blowing?

Mind-blown states happen in various ways.
We will require a working concept of Mind, and then we can deal with what ‘blowing’ it means.

Mind

For our purposes, we can say mind is a personal collection of concepts, preferences, and comfort zones. It's precisely what is personally familiar – and what is most familiar becomes invisible in time.

The mind in this sense is what people associate with a box, and hence we have the meme of going outside the box, which is similar to blowing the mind, but only in a limited, specific sense.

So the contents of the box (all that is familiar, or thought to be known) is mind – along with the intense preoccupation with protecting that box, which is the psychological or egoistic aspect of mind.

(Note: Other philosophical traditions, like some forms of Buddhism, use the term Mind usually capitalized, to mean a mental-psychological faculty that has reached a state of order and self-control, a ‘peaceful mind’ – but, we could claim that this term is an oxymoron. I believe Buddhist usages of the term take account of its enigma.)

Blowing

Okay, having our tentative, simple, working concept of Mind, now we can think about blowing it – the most fun part. It's different from going outside the box, because usually the box metaphor only pertains to a certain situation or a goal that needs a fresh approach, or a fix.
You can go outside your box, so to speak, without blowing your mind.
So what we’re getting after here is mind-opening and intellectual expansion to the point of transcending the box, but by forgetting it altogether, either temporarily or permanently. One might argue (and well) that strong, deep realizations are permanent by definition. We might want to take the middle way by wondering if the experience of blowing one's mind does have permanent effects, which just may not be obvious at first.

How does it feel to blow a mind? It's mostly euphoric, as if ascending to a never before visited height, and enjoying the aerial view. In that comparison, there may be some who feel a fear of heights, and who freak out a bit, but it passes.

Moreover, the experience can be ecstatic, because one feels as though the normal location of oneself has shifted, and one can observe that subjectivity from a radically newer and freer point of view – outside oneself yet still aware of being. (This point should bring into sharp question the existential validity of normal, personal, identified points of view.)

Another good analogy in terms of sensation is:

blowing is to the mind,
what
rollercoastering is to the body.

Everybody has felt this mind modification (blown-ness) but one may not know how to think about it. Similarly, everyone has had conscious philosophical thoughts or moods (especially kids and the elderly), but most do not get encouragement to explore them. The broader question is how much attention goes into our deep experiences.

A Gateway

Why is blowing the mind an important experience to describe and better understand? I believe the best answer is that the experience tends to lead to great awakenings in people by giving them a taste, and the hunger, for sweet Understanding. And then, digging Philosophy gives some thinking tools that prime us, so that understandings can flourish.

Seeking out (even craving) blowing one's mind is a useful vernacular image for the much larger prerogative of leading an ‘examined’, well understood life. According to philosophers such as Socrates, the proto-philosopher, that is the good life – the best life, actually.

Become a Patron! Using Patreon, sponsor this post for $2 or more -- thank you!
Or, support this work using my PayPal portal

23.11.18

On Giving Thanks

24 November 2018, Denver -- It seems to me that gratitude is much deeper, primary, and constant than giving thanks, which expresses gratitude. Apparently gratitude can be an ongoing state of being.

I like this idea. -- I've been pondering how absolutely everything within our consciousness, including our very births, has been imagined, created, and disclosed to us beyond our control.

Everything basically is given to us -- whether someone is a billionaire or an unknown peasant. We all receive gifts as a matter of course in life, and, we do a lot less than we think we do, for whatever we think we have.

And, it seems that a key variant among people is just how well this miraculous principle is understood and appreciated. Is one conscious of the provable fact that there is good reason for constant gratitude?

Become a Patron!
Or, support this work using my PayPal portal

1.11.18

The Hospital California

In order to be discharged, after nearly three weeks in that sterile joint, I would undergo the procedure to install a PICC line from my right arm to the top of my heart, threaded through an artery. This would become the valve I could use at home to continue intravenous antibiotics for the next six weeks, 24/7.

One of the medical technicians prepping me before the doctor arrived to insert the PICC line was playing a solid collection of 80s classics, like Tears for Fears’ ‘Shout’. I complimented the musical backdrop, and the three of us began praising that musical era. I even divulged that my go-to band of choice had been The Cure, really my first ‘band’, . . The PICC line installation was the only painless procedure I had experienced as a hospital patient.

*

The mystery of my case was how a person’s hip socket could become infected by Staph (the M.R.S.A strain) in the absence of any lacerations, let alone serious, gory injuries.

I admitted myself to the ER thinking I had a bad tear in my left quadriceps, judging from the sharp pain. Many infectious diseases doctors visited my contagion-control hospital room trying to figure it out -- wearing their bloated, yellow disposable frocks and rubber gloves (M.R.S.A. is not airborne, otherwise they would have been masked, too).

I happened to mention something that occurred about a week before: an ingrown hair in one of my nostrils, and a brief small swelling. The infectious disease doctor clapped her hands as if to say, ‘that’s it!’ -- she said that M.R.S.A. can live happily in noses.  So it all could have started from trying to pry out one of those dry Colorado nasal stalactites. This my friends, is why it is important to ensure that your immune system is as strong as it can be.

The tiny infection in my nostril was like a door opening. Once in the bloodstream the bacteria made a beeline for the weakest area of my body at the time, the hip -- and the rest is history. My ordeal included four operations, a fourteen-inch incision that got stapled shut, and an eighteen day holiday in a quarantined hospital room (with precautions that apparently had made it a little more difficult for nurses to enter when I hit the call button).

*

Back home after being discharged, every night I was dreaming about getting assistance from the nurses in my own bedroom -- in these dreams, I was managing them much more strongly than I could have done in my otherworldly hospital room, sometimes even excoriating their mistakes. To be fair, my nurses and surgeons saved my life, and they remained my heroes regardless of mistakes or scarcity.

In the hospital, I had one episode at night when my assigned nurse and assistant were well over an hour late to arrive with prescribed pain meds during a particularly hard period.

When they did arrive, the scanner would not recognize my ID bracelet, a necessary step before dispensing any medicine -- seemed the situation had become a nightmare. I eclipsed the max ‘10’ pain scale, and had begun to show neurological symptoms of the pain, like shaking feet and tapping hands. When you get that far out, it takes too long to overcome the pain threshold even after swallowing your pills. It was a very difficult, excruciating night. The next day, I had a good talk with the head of nurses.

But in the morning, I watched the sunrise sunbeams stream into my room, and, I had an epiphany about my life (it was, that I had to finish the Ph.D. dissertation and get my degree after a ten year sabbatical of living abroad).

*

Hospitals are strange zones. Many times my tongue got tied up between the words Hospital and Hotel. When you are cozied up in your room, with unlimited food room service, just expected to wait on and further your own healing, one can lose the plot of normal life, with things such as bills to pay.

Room service was available strictly on an old analog phone, a bulky thing, by dialing a special four-digit code. I had a half-depleted blood supply, a bit anemic, and the doctors were encouraging a blood transfusion. Instead of that, I was ordering, on that archaic phone, the pot roast entree, with grilled sweet potatoes, and gravy: the most concentrated and iron-rich things on the menu. My blood strength increased measurably every day, which meant I could stave off the transfusion.

Once I was discharged, I hit reality, my bills, the question of how I would get through the convalescence period, and so on. A friend had mentioned the GoFundMe site, and then I cleared up my view of it. I was a member of Kickstarter, another crowdfunding site, but GFM is like its shadow side, when people’s lives go awry and other people help them get through it. Starting my own campaign* (see link below) turned out to be yet another lesson in humility and in trusting fellow human beings.

* www.gofundme.com/hip-injury-4-surgeries-in-10-days

*

My friends, there is a clear moral to this story. Two, actually.

First, never, ever, fail to understand the initially hidden lessons and meanings of your misfortunes. It may seem clichéd -- but fuck it, it's so true. My time in the hospital was like being held in a mirrored room: for me, at least, it was a fully psychological as well as strictly physical recuperation space. There was a lot of self-reflection, pretty much going on all the time.

Waiting for others to provide assistance was its own humbling scenario. Misfortunes actually are intense and effective times to allow transformations within the personality to occur – especially in the general area of expressing mutual respect for the humans we come into range of, or contact with, on a daily basis.

Secondly, for God's sake, don't pick your nose -- no matter how hard those boogers get. Better just to blow your nose, and get on with your business.

Become a Patron!