Renovate the ponds

When I was a kid I knew I was a big fish in a small pond. My immediate environment did very little to challenge my innate capacity. In fact, no one had any real idea of my true capacity. Nobody ever really thought to check, or knew how to check, or had the time and resources to check. It lay there, dormant and, to some extent, atrophying.

I have a high IQ, and that meant I noticed the contrast between who I could be and who I was permitted to be more keenly than some others. But that’s not the kind of potential I’m talking about. Almost every child is a big fish in a small pond, because our ponds are shallow and paltry. In fact, my ability to score well on a test got me special extensions built on my pond, and it was still woefully constricting.

The spellbinding truth is we all have unfathomable human potential. We are, as a collective, a kadeidoscope of wondrous, talent-filled possibilities. And it’s sinful how much that goes to waste because we’re never given the support or space to explore it. Take us to the sea!

It scares me, sometimes, to think about all the ways school will inevitably fail my son as he grows. And the alternative – to keep him out of school and take on that responsibility and inevitable failure myself – terrifies me too. And that’s just one kid.

I have no answers here, just many troubling questions.

Stacked odds

It’s quite tiring living in such a complex world.

I try to be informed, and I try to pick balanced sources. I know everything is biased, I know everything has an agenda, and we have to be careful with that. I know I’m inclined to radical ideas and radical responses, and I have to be careful with that.

The shitstorm we’ve been living through lately really made me want to act more to help clean it up. But the more I get into it, the less clear it seems to me what cleaning up would be, rather than just smearing it around the floor a bit more. It’s difficult not to concede that I am too insignificant a player to even find a viable route, when everything is a tightly convoluted interwoven buzz wire game. I was happy to follow the leader, but all of the leaders have been letting me down.

When you know you don’t have a clue, really, it becomes difficult to make a move, for fear of doing damage. I went into relative stasis, unwilling to become an inadvertant pawn in a game of chess I didn’t even know was being played. I think, in this interim I staked out for myself, I have started to identify the boundaries of what looks to me like soundly ethical behaviour. But its range is fucking small. I still don’t have a clue about the rest of it.

Our brains weren’t meant to cope with shitstorms of this magnitude. Maybe we can’t be saved until Elon Musk’s neural implants or whatever come to usher in a new technological phase of our evolution. Or maybe that’s what he wants us to think…

The Twins

I’m a Gemini. To use astrology in its most reductive form.

I don’t know how much weight I put in that, but obviously I put some.

All mutable signs have a reputation for being indecisive, but Gemini is The Twins – and right now I feel like I have two opposing advocates living in my head, so, I don’t know, that feels highly relatable.

Often I notice parallels between what plays out in people’s personal lives, and what plays out in society.

I’ve spent some time lately thinking about how the effects of various systemic problems in our world can be understood quite well in terms of certain categories of human mental illness. And how, perhaps, by thinking about them in such terms we may be better able to deal with them appropriately. You don’t treat a person with PTSD the same as a healthy person and expect the same results, for instance.

Some people seem to have noticed a similar thing to me, although I’m sure they understand it in countless different ways. But they are responding to the situation with these ‘illnesses’ in mind, however they conceptualise them. Many people have not. They have probably noticed other things instead, that I don’t see.

But, much like the devils on my shoulder, by and large we don’t disagree on what the problems are – where we’re going round in circles is the implementation of a solution.

Me and my dichotomous twins are pretty clear on what we want, but they have very different arguments about how we should get there, and I can’t find a way to reconcile them. So we’re going backwards and forwards and, I fear, all the while just getting degraded. Is this the folly of a two-party system? Do I need a new starsign?

Please don’t go back to sleep

It would be a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it, if systemic racism didn’t exist? As a basically white person, it’d be a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more comfortable, to just go on as before, ignoring what I’ve seen play out over the past month. It’d be a whole lot easier to ignore the thinly veiled but heavily defended racism getting posted on Facebook right now. The distortion of truth, the picking apart of black individuals’ characters, the diminishing of human life against an overinflated consideration for public property.

I can understand why I’ve heard gaslighting getting talked about so much in anti-racist conversations, because it’s starting to make me feel crazy. Sat on the bed earlier, I thought about what it might be like to be a black person seeing what I’m seeing right now. I’m not seeing the worst of it in my social circle, and neither am I seeing the best. But I’m already viewing almost everyone in my life with suspicion. People who were quick to disavow racism at the start of this are now changing their tune to disavow unruly protests and whatever else allows them to deflect from the problem, and nearly everyone else is silent. I guess it’s just the same old story, but, man, is it bleak.

I’d be sleeping much better if I was silent too. Multiple nights recently, I’ve gone to bed not long after seeing a hateful comment or deliberate misinformation online. Whether I’ve had time to address it before putting my phone away or have saved it to look at again later, it echoes around my head while I lie in bed. Not because I’ve seen it, exactly, but because I have accepted the responsibility of addressing it. I’m not even doing this that often, but the burden is still significant. So I can see the lure of returning to (wilful) ignorance.

For that reason, one of the people in my life I am suspicious of is me. Putting aside all of the resistance that anti-racism work is met with, both internally and externally, diving deep into a subject for a period of intensive engagement only to abandon it and move on quickly after is kind of my M.O. So, based upon that, I’m not a good horse to bet on. I guess my saving grace may be that the one thing I have always stuck with – with admirably dogged determination if I do say so myself – is trying to be a better person, and there is no way to extricate anti-racism from that.

This is too big a problem to even wrap our heads around, and new distractions are popping up every hour of every day. The system wants us to forget about it. I’m starting to understand that most of us probably will. But I need to find a way to make sure I don’t.

Dishonest conversations

I’ve heard a few different arguments against using the word ‘privilege’ in my discussions.

In recent years I have tried to take other people’s word at face value, to guard against too heavily projecting my own ideas. I’ve trained myself, even when I know they’re not giving me the truth, and especially when I know they don’t even know they’re not giving me the truth, just to operate as if I believe them anyway, to give them a chance to prove my assumptions wrong.

That was an important part of my personal development, but I’m gonna have to start delving into some subtext more often, because people are fucking BULLSHITTING right now.

It’s almost always very privileged people bullshitting most about privilege. Go fucking figure, eh?

I come from an unequivocally working class background. I don’t fit in there really, but it is where I’m from, it has shaped me irrevocably, and I know some things about that place. Working class people are pretty likely to give it to you straight why they don’t like the idea of privilege. They’ve had to grind for everything they’ve got. If they can manage to get by, it’s because they fucking earned it. Everybody else should too. Don’t fucking talk to them about privilege. They don’t have it.

Middle class people are the ones who are going to say “Yes, I know I’m very privileged” in that politically correct way that doesn’t reach their eyes. But, the truth is, most of them are thinking exactly the same thing as the working class people are thinking – “I earned all this shit I’ve got. I deserve it.” They know it’s generally socially unacceptable to to say that when there are so many people struggling, so they pay lip service to their ‘privilege’. But deep down they have to keep believing that this is a fair world where, if you work hard and are a good person, you’ll be alright. And the reason they have a good life is because they work hard and are a good person.

People think that if they acknowledge that other people face barriers that they don’t face it will diminish their entitlement to what they have. Whether it does or not probably depends on what exactly they are claiming ownership of. But either way the discomfort of that possibility is what prevents them from looking at it. So they will say what they have to say so that they don’t have to look at it. And it will never reach their eyes.

As long as people keep doing that – having dishonest converstions about privilege – we’re going to be stuck with a world of inequality.