Sunday, July 15, 2018

Problematic Poltical Self Pity & Twittervism Consolation

I don't have an essay in me today. Figured out something of a promise or hypothesis for the essay I've been working on for a little more than ten years. Sadly an article that might help me reach more clarity on a couple concepts has an abstract I can see online, but I can't find the actual article. I guess I'll just need to use an article that has a reference to the original article and may have information that supports my argument. I find how access to information can affect the progress of knowledge and content of knowledge both frustrating and fascinating.

The last few weeks to months I've vacillated to understand my relationship to political activism and protestation, no matter the form it all takes. Lately I've felt overwhelmed by the information and the opportunities out there, trying to decide what groups to associate and align myself with. . .while trying to live day to day.

The day-to-day part feels like the problematic part to me. With the exception of being ultra rich, ultra influential, and/or ultra charismatic, I tick off most of the other categories of privilege (honestly, I wonder if I have some kind of physiological part of me that I don't fully understand that affects my level of charisma, because sometimes I can be extroverted and quite enjoyable while at other times, I'm quiet and become something of a "good listener", but that's beside the point).

I even feel privileged by my geographical location in Chicago. For the most part when it comes to the serious issues, my US elected officials stand for what I stand for. Calling Senator Durbin, Senator Duckworth, or Congressman Quigley feels like a waste of our time because it just feels like I'm saying, "I like what you're doing on this issue, keep doing it." Liking and retweeting their tweets feels more efficient.

A part of me feels like I have some amount of noblesse oblige to meet, though I can't figure out how to best direct my energies and find it overwhelming to figure out how. The problematic part comes from feeling like it is overwhelming and that I have the luxury to choose, but I find that I don't choose and don't act because I feel overwhelmed by it all. Joining groups on social media to keep up with them and seeing what I can do just feels like piling more and more information on top of each other to overwhelm me even more.

So I don't know. I guess part of me wants it to be more personal, which feels dumb since I have the level of privilege that I have. That's why my feelings strike me as problematic. It shouldn't be about me, as I'm doing fine and arguably, I have nothing at risk and have little under threat. I feel ashamed about my empathy not pushing me into more action. Sure, donating money to worthy causes to fight voter suppression, to support candidates that will fight for justice and humaneness, and to increase promotion of civic motivation does help and does something. Maybe my social media presence and blog essays have some influence on the people who follow me.

I still feel like I should do more. I will keep trying to push myself to do more. Maybe this hot hot summer makes things THAT oppressive, but again, other people get out there to make their voices heard and take action in the extreme heat (though plenty of people protested yesterday in the South Side, though that was more spontaneous and I don't know how welcome I would have been there).

Maybe like my physiological charisma issue I mentioned in paranthesis above, my problem comes from an energy issue that I could address with better care of myself. I know I don't get enough sleep, even though I eat well and I get plenty of exercise. I have so many things on my mind that just have to do with me, my ambitions, my day-to-day maintenance (when many in the world have much more work to do just for maintenance, let along pursue ambitions) that just figuring out what do from one minute to the next can get overwhelming.

Which feels all too privileged, liking I'm playing the smallest violin in the world.

So I'll end the self pity and provide some Twittervism:

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Announcing #PluralismTrack and Twittervism

I have a ton of other things to attend to, so no big sprawling essay today. Just some Twittervism. I'll start with a couple from today, though, because I want to introduce and bring attention to a feature I'd like to make a regular thing on my feeds, #pluralismtrack (or in plain English: pluralism track). Please feel free to use this hashtag, too, because we need more positive things to get out there and infect people with empathy.

Now onto the normal sequence sequence of Twittervism:

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Monday, July 09, 2018

Personal Morality vs Civic Virtue in Early Republic America History & Today & Abolishing Electoral College Activism is a Distraction


1. Project Update, Personal Morality, Civic Virtue, & Relevance to Today
2. Trying to Abolish Electoral College Distracts from Issues of Voter Suppression & Issues of Increasing Voter Participation


Socializing with people the other night, I often closed discussion about my project with the following: "I hate to say it, but the present times have helped me understand the US Early Republic more and the social and political context of that time in Boston." The last week or two fits this description, as context-expanding epiphanies have occurred along with exposure to data I haven't heard before (or in awhile).

The Radio Atlantic podcast had an interesting episode discussing how the family unit has changed during the 20th century and how people don't gather together into groups, formal or informal, as much anymore. People gathering together in physical life declines as the use of the Internet and social media interaction increases (possibly resulting in more negative ineraction than if it occurred in physical life).

Here's a link to the episode: "The Family Unit in a Divedend Era". And, if you haven't already, you should check out the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community.

Boston in the Early Republic had gone through something similar with its incorporation from town to city around 1820 onward to at least 1840. Before incorporation, the population in the town of Boston met together in town meetings and had selectmen to handle more routine stuff, even during colonial times when Boston was in the Province of Massachusetts Bay (established after the 1689 Boston Revolt).

A lot of times, apparently, The Boston Caucus worked with the town's business interests to make a lot of decisions before presenting issues to town meetings. The voters (mostly land-owning while males at that time) generally went along with this Establishment. Before the Panic of 1819, this process generally worked because the phrase "It's the economy, stupid" applied in that time and that place, too. White land-owning families did well and apparently participated a fair amount in politics. To the represented population, the community worked well.

Then the Panic of 1819 happened. Boston had also gotten so big it became unwieldy to run as a town, so the voters had the momentum to push for incoporating Boston. The final approach to incorporation didn't necessarily go the way the 1822 Boston Establishment wanted, even though the Establishment wanted incorporation, just in the fashion they wanted. Boston became a city and through a complicated electoral process in which no one clearly won, negotiations finally got someone into office for a year, after which then Josiah Quincy III took the office of mayor for about six years afterward.

The city government became more professionalized with more appointed positions than before, ostensibly awarded based on merit for career-oriented public servants. At the same time, though, a patronage-based "spoils system" developed. Quincy concentrated power, which the prior Establishment likely saw as corrupt.

The Establishment also developed some resentment for the new way of running things. Supposedly good things came out of new way of things, though, including the expansion of voting rights to non-landowner white men, who now just had to pay any kind of city tax, and the expansion of efficient functional city services. Obviously, Boston and the United States had and still has a long way to reach a satisfactory point. Nonetheless, Boston started on some reform to set up a merit-based career political system.

Counterintuitive to us these days, especially with how much resentment many have today about the current political Establishment, the Establishment of pre-incorporated Boston and even post-incorporation, had worked to create social cohesion and encouraged social gathering. The Establishment targeted mostly their male voters and for political reasons, but the Establishment mobilized voters by bringing them together to hang out and have a good time. Sure, those gatherings got rowdy with a lot of drinking, but it brought people together.

Fast forward twentiesh years, radical "socialist" Unitarian minister, George Ripley had started a public debate with his once teacher from Harvard, Andrews Norton about theological and social issues through essays in various publications. It wouldn't be out of proportion to imagine it as a social media debate/argument, especially since other intellectuals and academics got involved, directly or passively, even Ralph Waldo Emerson got dragged into it after he gave his The Divinity School Address at Harvard.

George Ripley had gotten riled up by Romantic ideas and inquiries into existence coming from Europe along with poverty rising in his church's neighborhood. Something that struck me in the last couple weeks: The Europan Romantic movements from the 1800's to the 1850's have a lot of similarities to the world situation today. The Romantic focus on reflection and recording data without prejudice feels like progress toward empirical science and also the budding of a pluralistic mindset. Even Emerson, who I used to think of as some sort of annoying Libertarian stereotype for them to worship wrote during the 1850's in his journal:

[A]s in the old burning of the Temple at Corinth, by the melting and intermixture of silver and gold and other metals a new compound more precious than any, called Corinthian brass, was formed; so in this continent, – asylum of all nations, – the energy of Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the European tribes, – of the Africans, and of the Polynesians, – will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature, which will be as vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the smelting-pot of the Dark Ages.
Emerson used more "melting pot" imagery than the current day "salad bowl" of pluralism, but white people have to start somewhere. Based on my sparse studies in Emerson, especially his tendencies toward tolerance and pluralism, Emerson seems to have played something of a part in the raising of pluralism and better thinking when it came to race amongst white people in the United States. Apparently, he had acquaintence with Emma Lazarus, who wrote "The New Colossus", the poem carved into the base of the Statue of Liberty with the following familiar words:

[. . .]“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Click on the link, too, and read the rest of the poem. It's good. I just included the most quoted parts here.

I also didn't know that Emerson was the godfather of William James, a major proponent of Pragmatism. I've read (but have yet to understand the connection) that Pragamatism has provided a philosophical/academic basis against bigtory, which W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain LeRoy Locke used to build their understanding for black empowerment and black confidence.

But the time of Romanticism also had a dark side in Europe, especially in the old Holy Roman Empire, Prussia, and many of the other Germanic areas. I feel like the best way to express the zeitgeist the Romantic times is this way: Ralph Waldo Emerson passed away in 1882, Adolf Hitler was born in 1889, SEVEN YEARS APART. Many years later, Hitler chose to inherit the dark side of Romanticism/Counter-Enlightenment, to mold it into the Holocaust.

Hitler took awhile to garner the influence and power, but those sentiments existed in the populace. Those sentiments started to culminate in an intellectual way in the 1700's, almost 250 years before Hitler came about to focus them into horrible atrocity. It really goes to show that thought and social action can feel both long and short. We also learn that some thinking developed in Romantic times don't differ too much from today, with both the light and dark sides in our world now.

As for Ripley, the 40-year old radical "socialist' Unitarian minister in the late 1830's, and Norton, his once teacher who was part of the Establishment, Norton missed the early days of Boston when civic activity supposedly translated into civic virtue by the reciprocal obligations that people felt toward each other. Ripley, on the other hand, believed that personal morality developed through personal reflection and personal sentiment formed between people, leading them to help each other out and connect with each other through instinctual empathy. It almost sounds a bit like Jeffersonian Democracy to me, though Ripley reacted to an urban milieu instead of Jefferson's desire for a yeoman rual republic.

Ripley tried to encourage his congregation to become more active politically and also to help ameloriate the misfortunes of those facing poverty in Boston. His congregation didn't care to do so. My suspicion for why: the poor working class that they saw were likely Irish Catholics. Admittedly, there was the Panic of 1837, too, but I think bigotry played a large part.

I also believe Norton argued for the older, bigoted civic organization route because he felt that other Establishment religions and political factions would persecute him and the Unitarians. Both Norton and Ripley had some level of membership in the Boston Unitarian Establishment in the 1830's. A decade earlier, the Unitarians had reached an armistice in a lot of controversy with the conservative Protestant establishment. Norton had become a firebrand in the Unitarian Controversy, arguing against the Trinity. Norton had become much more careful by 1836, though. Ripley participated a little at the end of the Unitarian Controversy, but Norton had taken part during the early heated parts to the armistice established in the 1820's.

Many theories for Norton's conservatism exist. Most of them come down to him marrying into money and socializing with the Boston Blue Bloods/Brahmins. Nevertheless, I think a fair amount of Norton's reaction has to do with riots inspired by bigotry, including the Ursuline Convent riots. The Ursuline Convent riots likely play a part since wealthy Unitarians patronized the convent to learn from a Catholic order.

Suffice to say, Ripley and Norton argued past each other in various publications until Ripley resigned his ministry to try finding something more fulfilling to do. He ended up starting Brook Farm, a utopian community that eventually failed after seven or so years. Ripley had also become disillusioned with his ministry and other people in town who didn't want to become engage in activism to better the world and provide ameloriation to suffering people.

As for Ripley's leadership of Brook Farm, it broke his spirit and his trust in humanity by teh end. He seemed to lose faith in humanity's inborn desire to help others and instinctively pick up responsibilities to keep a community going. You'll have to read my project after I'm done, if you want to learn more about it. Frankly, Ripley sounds a little like Andrews Norton in is old age, except Ripley had little memory of "better days" to feel nostalgic about.

Frustratingly, I took 10 years to figure out how much Ripley and Norton had talked past each other. They both used the word morality, but I hadn't realized that Ripley talked about "personal morality" and Norton alluded to "civic virtue".

This misunderstanding strikes me as a big deal in my understanding of the matter. When I had originally read it by conflating the two interpretations into one, I agreed with both sides and couldn't understand why the two of them spent all that time disagreeing. Sometimes I even sympathized more with Norton because he pointed out how much Ripley and his associates came off as upstarts willing to throw out the baby with the wash tub. Even from my retrospective, I appreciate Ripley's criticism of the entrenched social status of the aristocracy that didn't help those below them and encouraged bigotry and social stratification.

Now that I see that they argued using two different ideas, I can more confidently say that they both said things to agree with. The biggest problem was their talking past each other. If they could have met in the middle, they could have possibly conceived of some really amazing things.

They both make good points now and then. We need personal morality, and we need civic virtue, civic engagement, and real life social engagement. We need to engage in authentic empathy, so we don't have bigotry and shortsightedness encouraging us to dehumanize others. We also need to gather together, connect, and interact with each other using our authentic empathy. Back in Early Republic Boston, they had church, political organizations, personal credit extending (though it had become more institutionalized), town meetings, and other ways to feel an obligation toward other human beings to be around them in real life and to engage with them. Social and civic connections can help us feel emotional attunement.

A lot of things have changed since then. Voting rights in the United States have technically extended to most citizens over the age of 18. We have the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments. Many states have laws that further protect communities against discrimination.

But we also have Trump. We have an opioid epidemic. We have conservatives trying to trammel these individual/group rights and allow the destruction of the climate. We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the Internet. We have rural people edging and fighting for conservative stances because they see families falling apart and socializing opportunities and civic engagement obligations becoming fewer and farther between. Per Bowling Alone, much of the real life civic engagement started detoriating when organizations like AARP, the NRA, and other civic organizations practiced their political engagement through passive mass mailings and impersonal membership organizations.

America and possibly the world, I think we have a crisis on individual levels and on social levels. Like the "radical socialist" minister, George Ripley, and the Establishment teacher, Andrews Norton, we're talking past each other. We need to work on ourselves and work on our society. I'm part of the problem. You're part of the problme. I've addressed our need to open our minds to other persectives and work to understand them, which works OK while we gather that information, don't go out, and don't interact.

We now need to get out there and interact. We need to start groups with the intention of sharing perspectives and listening to perspectives, and we should do so in real life more, not just online. Unlike what I've advocated in a past essay, our schools and social programs have done a shitty job building empathy in the population. We don't have the sense of obligation to come together as we did in the past except for work, except for maybe politicians, marginalized people, and like those in the Manosphere who believe they're victims of marginalization and oppression (Yeah, right!). Sure, it was mostly men back in the Early Republic, but we need for individuals and groups with multiple perspectives to come together.

Per Pew Research, the frequency of marriage has gone down 9% over the past quarter century in the United States, with the marriage rate decreasing in correlation to education level decreases. The median age of first getting married has also reached the highest it ever has: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 years for women.

Sexual desire and engagement has also decreased because we have less potential sexual partners living together. I don't consider marriage necessarily an end all be all, but it does indicate that social connection has gone down even as the right to marry has expanded (though I will acknowledge and be happy that a portion of these changing marriage and changing sexual desire/engagement statistics probably also comes from empowerment of some people willing to stand up -- sometimes with the valued support of their friends and family -- and leave the relationship).

These instances of decreased indications of sexual connection occur, in my opinion, much because people fail to connect these days (and hopefully because some people have learned that some sexual behavior, like rape and sexual assault are not OK). The Manosphere is toxic, but the Incel movement originated out of the desire to connect but not being able to, and by a queer woman, at that! There's an inkling of something worth inquiring into among these populations, even if they're coming to the wrong conclusions on how to resolve the matter of finding happiness and emotional attunement.

If we want to push our nation to a better place, a place of actual empathy, we need to do more than just

  • Argue for empathy
  • Help others understand the plight of marginality
  • Help expose others to more perspectives and be more open to them
We need to gather together in social, civic, and political situations where we live and execute

  • Empathy
  • Perspective sharing
  • Interaction
  • Connecting (while also helping those who want to connect so much that they make things awkward and also to not contribute to making toxic atmospheres like the Manosphere)
Just today (I had written the bulk of this essay yesterday), the WBEZ radio show Morning Shift had a clip about an interesting initiative here in Chicago. The initiative looks to reduce street violence by encouraging people to associate with each other and to create safe spaces on the streets, especially in the neighborhoods that have the most violence: "Advocates Stake Out Gun-Violence 'Hot Spots' on South, West Sides".

Honestly, I see a lot of marginalized folks doing a good job coming together in this way, political activists do it well, and so forth. Now we need to make it a regular pattern of our social fabric (and privileged people need to stop making it awkward).

Any concrete ideas on how we do it?

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I've been seeing the following meme making the rounds lately:

Here's a response I've had to it on a Facebook thread:

This doesn't get the numbers right. It assumes population = eligible voters. Wait, no. [It assumes population =] voters who turn out and aren't suppressed.

Per this article, it's actually the middling population states that that don't have what feels like a "justifiable" proportion of voting (and the article discloses that it doesn't take into account winner take all rules in the States).

Eliminating or changing the Electoral College is harder than defeating voter suppression, motivating eligible people to register to vote, making sure they maintain their registration, and actually go out to vote. Even working on states to get rid of winner take all rules [is easier] than attacking Electoral College directly.

Getting rid of the Electoral College would take passing Senate & House of Reps THEN 3/4 of the States. The Equal Rights Amendment needs just one more state to approve, just got Illinois to approve it, and has been making the rounds for 30-40+ years.

The other option would be a Constitional Convention, but that's risky AF. Koch Bros WANT a Constitutional Convention so that they can make their vision of an Oligarch state real. With the power the Koch's have now in the states, they could change the whole Constitution at a Convention. Or at least they could soon, except Trump's abuses of power may have screwed everything up by getting people to wake up to the oligarchy that had been creeping up on us.

I just hope people continue being vigilant [after we] are successful bringing things back to a status quo. I know some people have become more driven and active than ever before, but people find complacency easy when things are good.

Nonetheless, fighting voter suppression, getting people registered, motivated, and out to vote will be a lot more effective than trying to get rid of the Electoral College.
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Thursday, July 05, 2018

Resistance Twittervism

The weather in Chicago has gotten so hot and air conditioners on so constantly that I need to drink Gatorade to stay awake. The last week or so, I've been way too much useful researching and thinking for the project that I haven't had the time to focus on too many other things. Not a bad thing, but if things continue like this, I'll have drop some extra curricular activities over the next year so.

I plan to keep Lextopia going, but I need to get this project done. Admittedly, bringing in some cash from essay writing and further sharing of my Twittervism would be nice. If you have the time, a Paypal account (or willing to set up one), and a few dollars (or more) to share, please "Buy me a Coffee" with a click on the link with those words. Maybe if I somehow get enough interest and funds coming in, I could spend a lot more time thinking and writing.

Another way that you might be able to help is share the name of publicaiton that you think would be a good fit for my essays. That can provide me more buck for my bang.

In the meantime, have some Twittervism:

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!