I’ve given up reddit for lent. In the language of 12 step programs, I’ve come to realize that I had no control over reddit and my life had become unmanageable.
And so I’m substituting monkey-brain reddit consumption with long-form book reading. My goal is to read 10 books during the 45 days of lent. I’ve selected 15 to choose from. I’ll give each 50 pages, and at that point, either continue or move on to a new book. Here’s my list – derived from – you guessed it – reddit. Heh.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson) -229p
- Animal Liberation (Peter Singer) -324p
- Travels With Lizbeth (Tom Wessels) – 318p
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows (Melanie Joy) – 210p
- Overshoot (William R. Catton Jr.) – 324p
- The Myth of Progress (Tom Wessel)- 176p
- Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) – 433p
- Who Owns the Future (Jaron Lanier) – 396p
- Behave: The Biology of Humans at our best and worst (Robert M. Sapolsky) – 799p
- 12 Rules for Life (Jordan Peterson)- 450p
- Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) – 528
- Energy and Civilization (Vaclav Smil) – 568p
- The End of Education (Neil Postman) – 225p
- Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) – 158p
- Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) – 611p (11 hr)
The first title, The Subtle Art of not Giving a F, is on an audio book app on my phone. The second title, Animal Liberation, is on my kindle. As of this morning, I’m knee-deep in both.
Here are some thoughts on Animal Liberation. Peter Singer starts by making us look at our fundamental thought processes.
“Who can say with any confidence that none of his or her attitudes and practices can legitimately be questioned?”
In other words – question EVERYTHING. Question every belief, every assumption, every opinion. It brings to mind that authoritarian twat Stephen Miller. In an interview he asserted, horrifically, “The powers of the president are substantial and will not be questioned.” Ugh – this Koch-think-tank cookie-cut-out is a speech writer for Trump. Ugh.
Singer reminds me that my job as a parent is to teach my kids logic and critical thinking.
“If we wish to avoid being numbered among the oppressors, we must be prepared to rethink all our attitudes to other groups.”
This brings to mind the NFL / BLM / patriotism controversy. Most of my family are on the side that asserts that people like Colin Kaepernik are out of line. Whereas I sympathize with the NFL players taking a knee. I mean, what do I have to lose thinking through the issues they’re raising? Kaepernik’s stance inspired me to look more closely at the reality of today, where police training is demonstrably inadequate. I think, “why not fix that?” Why not demand more training for the people who police our streets with guns strapped to their waists? Why not demand police get more hours of training than a hairdresser does?
It seems to me that people who get stuck on the patriotism aspect are not willing to look at the issues raised by their fellow Americans who are taking a knee. Their shrill emotions spill out on facebook, and I cringe. I don’t understand their aversion to simply studying the issue that Kaepernick and the rest are raising. What do they have to lose? It’s not like they’re racist. But somehow they think they’re being accused of being KKK members. I don’t get it.
And so, they get hung up on the flag, and miss the opportunity to study the historical evolution of pervasive prejudices in our society. And so, unwilling to simply LOOK, they join ranks with the oppressors, even as they might congratulate themselves for their open minded equanimity, cuz they ‘work with a black guy who they get along with’.
“We need to consider our attitudes from the point of view of those who suffer by them, and by the practices that follow from them.”
Preaching to the converted here. I watched Earthlings, Lucent, Land of Hope and Glory. Actually, I watched Earthlings twice, because I didn’t want to forget. I didn’t want to forget the perspective of the sufferers in the machine that is our animal agriculture industry. I also watched Erin Janus’s Dairy is Scary and Wool Industry Exposed. And I seek out videos from Earthling Ed, so I can pattern my own activism on the gentle socratic method, just as he does.
It’s not difficult to imagine being born a male dairy calf. It’s not difficult to imagine being taken from my mommie and fed a bottle of palm-oil derivatives. It’s not difficult to imagine being crated all alone, hearing my mommie bellow for me. And then, months later, taking a bolt gun to the brain.
This is how I already see the industrial factory farm animal agriculture industry. So I’m looking forward to thinking through the ethics, piece by piece. I’m reading Singer first because he wrote this 40 years ago. I’m looking forward to Melanie Joy’s book too – as it tackles the phenomenon of the dominant but hidden ideology of carnism.
Regarding Mark Manson’s ‘The Subtle Art’. I’m already ~ 40% of the way through it. Audio books go quickly. In my teens I’d already developed a pretty healthy ‘IDGAF’ attitude on most things. But two issues stand out today as very much “I do GAF” about.
First: I’m in Generation eXtinction. Mine is the generation that very well could witnesses human extinction. All due to human-caused global warming/ocean acidification through our unrelenting GHG emissions. This one weighs me down every day. Especially when I look into my son’s eyes. Because he’s generation I. Even if I squeak by living a long natural life, as far as I can tell, he is unlikely to do the same. And it’s breaking my heart. And I look around at people unwilling to bike rather than drive, unwilling to eat beans rather than beef, at people unwilling to stop consuming so much and it just seems absurd. And pointless. And stupid. And I get angry, and I come into acceptance, and then I get angry again. Because we could do better. But just like I described with people not willing to simply look at the underlying issues of the NFL taking-a-knee controversy, most people are unwilling to question BAU (business as usual). And so I’ve concluded – we’re fucked. And it sucks.
Second: My fellow Americans seem either comfortable with, or ignorant of the legal corruption in our national government. Buying politicians is legal. Corporate capturing of regulatory agencies is common practice. For-profit ‘news’ outlets serve up de-contextualized narratives rather than cogent contextualized facts. Partisanship is ripping our country apart, and all-the-while, the powers that be encourage further toxic consumption and GHG emissions.
These two things I give a big F*CK about.
Further into the book – perhaps chapter 3 or 4 – Mr. Manson suggests we not ask ourselves what we want, or what makes us happy. He suggests we ask ourselves what pain we want. What suffering we want to pursue? And there’s my answer – in those two points above. I started a charity helping Rohingya refugees. And I’ll continue it. But I’m not willing to suffer for that (even though financially I’ve already given that charity thousands of $ and will continue to do so).
No, the principles I’m willing to suffer for are getting $ out of our political system, fixing the constitution, and cutting our GHGs and pollution so my kids have a GOD DAMNED future. The great filter is 95% closed, because we chose Reaganism and rejected the conservation of Carter. But by God there’s a 5% opening and I’m going to claw it open further if it kills me.
I’m disgusted that my parent’s generation is so glib and content to sell out their grandkids’ futures for whatever bullshit agenda their political party of choice is selling to them. And I’m not easily disgusted, because I know that our insular cortexes are easily hijacked by propagandists to do their bidding. Yes I took a sneak peak into the Robert Sapolsky ‘Behave’ book by watching his hour long lecture on cspan2. (It’s excellent, by the way, I highly recommend).
But this disgust arises, not from some narrative fed to me by a talking head on for-profit 24 hr cable news. It’s hard won from my own research and critical evaluation of sources and their agendas. And it has me being a Debbie Downer. But that’s the pain I’m pursuing. I can’t hide it.
So that’s day 1. We’ll see where day 2 of Animal Liberation and Not Giving a Fuck leads us. Till then, I’m off to the allergist office. I live in a country with single payer medicine. Two weeks ago we paid our annual fee (7.5% of income up to ~20k € + 4% of income over that – came out to about 2900€ or $3500USD). And now we’re receiving letters in the mail prompting proctology appointments and pap exams. I love it! Nanny state? I’ve read my Lakoff. I know ‘nanny state’ is propaganda code to light up the authoritarian brain. And my brain is solidly that of a nurturer. So I say, “yes please! Bring Mary Poppins on!” I don’t mind little nudges, reminding me to take care of my health – especially by people who study health for a living. And who provide emergency rooms to which I can go if I break a limb – and not worry about going bankrupt if they happen to find something cancerous growing under the skin.