Friday, July 31, 2020

States of Change Chapter 27: Sunshine (Florida)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.

Beneath the mid-summer sun refugees stream North on the I-95 tarmac like so much flotsam and jetsam. Families huddle together amid cyclists with trailers, and grocery-cart vagabonds both alone and aligned for the day. Each bubble community chatters over the possible admission into one of the Florida highland estates or, less likely, passage beyond the border wall to Georgia. Exhausted from pushing my cart as much as from the nervous cacophony of wishful thinking, I veer to the shoulder. On the overpass I park my cart alongside a modular barrier the color of month old orange peels. Under my battered umbrella I take in the sun scorched view to the East.

Maybe ten miles distant, beyond a myriad of makeshift rafts and ragged sailboats, I see the remains of launch structures jutting from the watery expanse of the drowned Kennedy Space Center complex.  Wispy shadows are all that remain of the Oosa space vision, now corroding in swirls of aquamarine shallows and septic runoff. I reminisce back to a time before twenty feet of ocean rise overwhelmed the eastern seaboard consuming more than half of the Sunshine State. In my youth only the most pessimistic imagined that the release of sequestered methane would change things so dramatically over the span of a single generation. Alas, the the laws of physics are a harem of harsh mistresses. Clad in the sheer fabrics of denial, science illiteracy and irrational civilization planning, the eternal harem seems to have turned on all of Earth with masochistic aplomb.

I remind myself there was a time when space exploration reigned. Now, but an naive engineer's daydream, the frequent launches to explore space heralded the epitome of human cooperation and curiosity. My battered visAR confirms it was 56 years ago today that the Perseverance rover launched from here toward Mars to follow in the footsteps of so many earlier probes. So many promising destinations: Mars, Titan, Europa and Enceladus, each a distant world that had begun delivering bits and pieces of evidence that life might exist beyond Earth's demesne. In due course, NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the WSO squandered their resources and trillions of dollars on politically inspired manned missions. Eventually, economic reality steamrolled the space race over, smooth as a Flat Earther's wet dream. 

Tapping my visAR, AI conspiracy theory touch-points from the wiki-reddit sphere appear overlayed on the ocean grave vista before me. Their spidery meta-links weigh on my psyche, but hard times leave me little interest in contemplating esoteric stories of cyber-insurgence, underwater alien bases and Elon Musk's secret society of undying transhumanists. Back in the real world, Brazilia and Chinese Ethiopia now maintain the world's satellite grid. No one bothers to speculate why the New Empire countries foot the bill for the fallen first world. No one cares so long as we have cloud access to prospective resource drop sites, favorable refugee routes and archived infotainment. I avoid the custom ARporn myself, preferring to find escape in the old 2D nature documentaries you can still find in the corners of the Wayback. Nothing is quite as cathartic as watching species no longer with us, Still on occasion I'll surf a fantasy saga from the Plastic Era. Space operas, planetary colonization serials, and Simulated Universe tales do manage to take the edge off refugee subsistence. 

My visAR charge status does its red dance, so I remove the headset and place it in my cart's child-seat. The solar charger will take a couple hours to juice it up. It's for times like this that I keep a treebook in my stash handy as a backup reality distraction. The cover is more than a bit ragged, exchanged a dozen times while I squatted in the Hills of Hobe Sound for the past decade. Still, the gritty, worn paper feels substantial in my hands. And Robert Heinlein's classic Have Space Suit -- Will Travel is just what the doctAR ordered. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Acceptance and Toleration: Subtle Enemies?

In my contemplation of the best path for myself as both individual and part of humanity, I've resoundingly found compassion and reason to be the the primary components of pursuing an effective ethical journey toward the goal of sustaining a healthy planet at all levels for all of its constituents.

In the cultivation of relationships, I've been much less successful at finding a process that is as fully encompassing, leaving me to suspect that achieving positive human connections remains more of a black art. In particular, I've come across sources that favor simple acceptance as the core to achieving successful human connections. Toleration on the other hand harbors the nuance of holding a state of judgement to another's non-violent behaviors or beliefs in addition to accepting the person's right to hold them. Toleration might also imply the desire to influence the other to change.

I appreciate the hands off approach of acceptance as being fully non-confrontational with acquaintances and everyday people that pass only briefly through my sphere.  "Live and let live" might be the bold libertarian core to such acceptance that transmits the feeling caring egalitarianism.

And yet, I have a hard time seeing why one with well reasoned, evidence-based, and compassionate positions wouldn't feel obliged to inspire others and community policy to ratchet up human ethical mindsets. Perhaps, direct influence of individuals is simply at odds with human nature, unless coming from a perceived divine source. Perhaps, when it comes to personal relationships there is a benefit to simply ignoring differences of opinion to facilitate cooperation on an unrelated project, whether that effort is in the workplace, friendscape or family network.

All of which leads me to the conclusion, sometimes things can be overthought and overwrought. Perhaps, radiating goodness and laughing joyfully in our daily is simply a solid fine starting point for living daily life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


Under the guise of patriotism and holiness

Declare war!

Funnel thine wealth to the war machine
That thou may hold onto and gain greater wealth
Train your army and brainwash them well
Focus the violence of their nature, neo-vicious
Hone chivalry to boost morale and cleanse the murder they reap
Then, unleash the rules of war

Rule One: outnumber your enemy
Kill them faster and you’ll outnumber them more

Rule One: keep your rifle polished
But not the bullets; infection is a plus

Rule One: shoot first
And shoot often, civilians, soldiers (or self)

Rule One: never surrender
Death is the only white flag lacking disgrace

Rule One: pay them well and defund everything else
Worry not, you’ll still get the military vote

Rule One: send the poor to do the fighting
When they die it’s a win win outcome

Rule Omega: last man standing wins
Now start building the war machine up again

[the silence between anger and indifference]

Rule Zero: create enemies wherever you go
it's the only excuse you need to declare war

Monday, July 6, 2020

Life as a Pyramid Scheme

"Life is precious" is an often repeated adage. Since the humans who share that sentiment are living things themselves it feels to me inherently biased. Taking a step back from the apparent beauty of life around us, as I though experiment, I wonder if there might be a more nuanced perspective.

Throughout our lives we too frequently take for granted the other living things that are killed to sustain our health, personal growth and entertainment. Whether it is the life of a juvenile pig slaughtered for protein, the hectares of crops that we plant where wildlife once thrived, or the trees we turn into paper for our books (or burn as biomass to charge our e-readers), the nearly eight billion consumers in our species dramatically continue to change the natural landscape in devastating ways.

In part, because the Earth is rather large we have ignored human impact. In part, because we've all be acculturated to the norms around us we focus on our selfish individual goals and desires. To be sure, humans are atop the pyramid of life when it comes to extracting the energy and resources from all other living things on this planet, by far, by magnitudes, by ginormous proportions unmatched. 

Still, nearly every life-form consumes below it, ostensibly to further its own life and the lives of its offspring. Are we so different? Can we cite "oh it's just the cycle of life" when we overlook the billions of sentient creatures in the deadly human processing scheme?

I think not. If there is one thing that sets humans apart from the animals it is the too often unharnessed ability of bringing philosophy, reason, empathy, science and compassion actively into our decision trees. No other creature has the power to reach beyond its evolutionary trajectory. Humans have access to wisdom in such large and varied quantities, that it often competes with itself, in particular with ancient ideas that don't stand up to modern analyses.

Standing from atop the pyramid, I am privileged to conjecture and to share the resulting ideas across the world here on my blog. Perhaps in some small measure that will have influence globally as well, but in the end my daily action and inaction in the world are what determine the goodness of the pyramid I in part am building.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Of Ghosts and Ghouls

Relationships at any level can be challenging to manage, especially when one person wishes to discontinue the connection. In recent years, ghosting has gotten a lot of negative attention, especially with the increased ability to silently end things over text or email. As with so many complex issues, a spectrum of scenarios correlate to a spectrum of responses. There is no single formula that can contend with every separation situation out there.

That said, a good rule of thumb is to communicate with sufficient kindness and personal contact commensurate with the depth of the relationship.

If the beginnings of a connection had barely got started online or resulted in a less than energizing first meeting, then a simple texted "Thank you. I wish you luck in your pursuits." feels more than adequate. And if both parties are fully silent then the mutual ghosting may simply reflect insufficient interest on either side, no slights implied. Even long-term friends can silently drift apart without damage in rare instances.

In general, should a connection grow to the degree that there is a mutual friendship, the expectation for ending things, or canceling hanging out, rises as well. An in-person or extended written or spoken reply that relates honestly and kindly the gist of the reasoning seems sufficiently appropriate. The challenge rises when both parties want to stay in contact but at significantly different levels. 

Ultimately it takes compassion and understanding from both sides. If a friend senses their counterpart consistently wants a greater connection, a verbal normalizing of expectations may be warranted. And if one party continually cancels or fails to respond reasonably to the other's attempts to converse, then it is a sad reality that for emotional health, things may have to end quietly. I like the use of "namaste" to indicate well wishes for a positive journey to that special person who has decided to allow the connection to fade.

And finally, for the longest term relationships, whether with family members, longtime friends or intimate lovers it would be simply ghoulish to end things silently when an opportunity to have a conversation exists. Realistically, people and circumstances change. Where at all possible, gentle attentiveness should be applied when such deep emotional bonds are to be broken. In many cases, a professional mediator may be conscripted to repair the bonds or ease the transition toward separation as desired.

We must keep in mind every relationship is its unique phenomenon. Given this modern age has so many communication methods and styles, each of us can be a little forgiving before condemning someone for ghosting. We can never know completely what's going on in another's head, even if  we believe we do. As with so many gut-level judgments we should consider giving pause to first assess how our own verbal actions have influenced the moment. Often, when we can, it may simply be time to start looking for a new friendship or romance that better meets our needs.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Veg Vexations

Reflecting on several years of being vegan. 

You'd think that choosing a lifestyle that eschews the profit-making and indifference to non-human animal captivity, abuse and killing would reduce ones stress over time. Alas, when you swim against the current of common, culturally baked-in behavior, it can be a rough ride.

In retrospect, sharing meals with omnivore friends and family members is the most consistent frustration. Too often, conversation gravitates around the objectively inhumane entrees being consumed. A varied set of conversational topics would better distract, sure, but one must also contend with the unspoken rule that one better not bring up the environmental impacts, the animal cruelty or relatively healthier options offered by plant based eating. 

I get it. "Live and let live" is a cornerstone adage of western liberated society. Unfortunately, when it comes to liberty if we're not talking humans, cats or dogs, very little concern or compassion is engaged actively for the majority of our beautiful planet, let alone in conversation. Still, choosing a connection with family and friends is so important. As with any liberation from oppressive belief one cannot attack the sensitive area too directly to be effective. Better to behave at a higher ethical level with silent toleration and wait for that one in a hundred opportunity to share a positivie, Socratic contemplation that questions carnist norms.

There are other challenges, but in general the vegan existence over the past decade has only improved. There are more options in grocery stores and restaurant menus. Serious journalism on environmental impacts, plant based nutrition, and animal welfare, especially given the context of the Corona Virus. All in all, the vegan movement is a long-term effort, of which I am one tiny participant. To be sure, global changes cannot come quick enough to solve these issues. Nevertheless, it feels good to be part of the solution, while occasionally encouraging others to consider ideas that ratchet up our species' aggregate treatment of the world we live in.