Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Relax -- This won't hurt."

I am a man

I am self-aware

Everywhere I go

You’re always right there with me

I’ve flirted with you all my life

Even kissed you once or twice

And to this day I swear it was nice

But clearly I was not ready

Oh death, I’m not ready

--Vic Chesnutt


I am at a loss for giving anyone else answers that have eluded me for so long. My life has not been horrible. I felt I needed more to make it meaningful and endurable. I have been unhappy for some time; I could not seem to get the disparate parts of my personality to align in my favor; I have been planning this for some time; and, I have considered it likely, given my natural disposition. While there is nothing in particular that has brought me to this place, my disillusionment with life can be found somewhere between what I perceived to be employment that lacked prestige or value; the slow loss of friends and community, some of which self-imposed; and, repeated unrequited love.

From my perspective, I spared those around me the misery of being around me. Part of me chose to isolate myself because I was becoming an insufferable bore, another part chose because I was finding my ability to tolerate others diminishing, and finally I wanted to see how many people would try to knock down the walls I had erected around myself. I spent the last several months doing what I wanted; it was not unpleasant. I didn’t want to get married for fear of burdening another person with my depression, and I most certainly did not want to pass along my genetic material; and, if I’m not going to have a family or have a gainful, meaningful employment (both scenarios seemed unlikely), why live at all? Life was painful and boring. There was simply nothing else I wanted, and those things I would have enjoyed (Vienna, sex) are no great losses. I have relatively recently seen or spoken to most of my inner circle, a number of which on my vacation out east. I have seen enough.

I have some final people to address. I would have said this in life, but people would have tried to stop me. Try keeping a secret like this for several months: it’s not as easy as you imagine. First, I have a request. The next year, and beyond, will be horrible for my mother and maternal grandparents. If my friendship has purchased anything, account it to them and call her my mother to make sure she’s as well as can be expected.


To all the girls I loved who didn’t love me back: Desperately I wanted to make one of you feel like a queen. Until I became a woman hater not too long ago, it was my deepest desire to show you how beautiful you were. For all my flaws and missed opportunities, I would have done anything to make you happy. Rightly or wrongly, I treated you as my salvation. And now I have a gun in my mouth.

My greatest fear is that people rejected me not because they didn’t see the real me, but because they did, because they couldn’t bring themselves to hire or date or hang out with someone as ugly as me. What if my boss really did see my potential? What if girls did see what I had to offer and found me wanting. If so, then I guess this is a reasonable decision. If not, then that’s just unfortunate, like much of life. I have made poor choices in life and I own them completely. I have simply chosen not to live with them.

I hope this gives no one fodder for taking away guns rights or rights in general. I believe it’s a person’s right to commit suicide. I also don’t believe that all life is sacred – some people need to just get out of the way. I don’t believe in making that decision for someone else, but over time nature skims off the dross. I believe most of us just fear death more than living life as a loser. I would like to clarify that paragraph for any who misunderstand where I’m coming from, but obviously that is out of the question.

I suppose that’s enough. If you wish to memorialize me, I hope it’s not too pretentious of me to say I always felt an affinity for Don McLean’s “Vincent.”

Let my epitaph read: “the world has no room for another third-rate philosopher” (I’m serious).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Supreme Court Decision on Campaign Reform

I was going to take a lot of time to put together a well-constructed post on this, but to my shame I do not have the mental stamina for that. Instead, I shall give you the gist of what has happened and my reaction. Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to limit spending by corporations to political campaigns. Liberals have been making a lot noise on the subject, with one Facebook poster saying, "'s over. the USA is now a wholly owned subsidiary of major corporate interests."

Apocalyptic fearmongering aside, my initial impression is that this will not end up being as scary as we imagine. The loss of liberty and good government in our society tends to come slowly. Libertarian news sources like Reason and the Cato Institute have already voiced their problems with the McCain-Feingold act. In Reason's estimation, and I agree, the good intentions of the bipartisan effort was a failure. Which leads to my first question on those criticizing the decision: do you believe McCain-Feingold was a success? Did it keep money out of politics without intruding on other liberties? If not, then perhaps policing this with legislation is unwise.

I am torn on this issue, and I share the concerns about money in politics. To those things, however, I want to send some words of caution. First, I think money will always be in politics. You know all those banks that got bailed out? You know who gave the most to the Obama campaign? Yeah, same people.

There are also two fallacies that concern me. First, it's that corporations are bad. I don't believe that. I believe they tend to be opportunists, but not inherently bad. I don't believe the motives of Coke are inherently better than that of the ACLU. Money may not make you good, but it is not a bad thing either. I am also not crazy about the government policing speech that criticises government. Government is just like business: it has its own interests at heart. I don't trust business, but I don't trust government either.

One critic said that coporations are neither individuals, nor members of the press, therefore, they are not susceptible to the same rights of freedom of speech as everyone else. What concerns me with that argument is that I'm an inclusivist when it comes to free speech. We have a history of deciding who should not be considered persons, and I would argue it does not play well. Also, what makes a member of the press? I feel like the concept is porous enough that it can't be policed. If Coke sets up a blog, have they become a member of the press? Or what if they support their favorite yellow-journalism news source, like MS-NBC or Fox News?

I believe democracy is strengthened by free speech, and the answer to bad speech is more, better speech. I am also a believer in transparency. I believe our greatest buffer in democracy to tyranny is not law but the will of the people. At this moment, I'm fine with letting anyone say anything they want, as long as we know who is saying it. If the word of corporations is dubious, and they have to put their name on something to say it, or have to file their contributions, then they may think twice about spending money on something that may back fire.

What is most perturbing is the cynicism that is spoken on the issue. President Obama, in the NY Times article mentioned, said the ruling is "
a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." Implicit in that seems to say that all that matters in politics is money and the ability to buy votes. The ability of individuals to see through cronyism and self-interest. But if that's true, if all that ever matters is who has the most money, did we ever really have a democracy? If the wisdom of the voting populace can only be moved by what money can buy, it seems to me we have already lost our government. Me, I have more faith in the wisdom of Americans. I believe America is better than that.

Instead of trying to find ideal legislation to try and maintain equity, I say let everyone with a dollar and a voice speak, and let wise men and women debate and discuss. Admittedly, it's a gamble. The worst nightmares of liberals may be correct: we may be on the short road to being owned subsidiaries of big business. But remember that you have to be an optimist to believe in democracy. You have to believe that liberty and individual choice are stronger than our vices.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Alyssa Rosenberg’s Review of “It’s Complicated”

While I am a day late and a dollar short, over the holiday season bloggers and gabfest worlds were abuzz over the Meryl Streep rom-com Its Complicated. One of the better reviews was a morality-critiquing post by Alyssa Rosenberg. To Rosenberg’s credit, she was the only person I came across whose movie-going experience was diminished due to the plot’s shallow treatment of the charming but hedonist characters. Alyssa downplays the interiors of their homes and makes much of the interiors of their lives.

To quote Rosenberg, “it is not remotely okay for Streep's character to have an affair with her [remarried] ex-husband.” She goes on to decry the protagonist’s behavior: “Streep's character, despite behaving recklessly and selfishly, gets everything she wants.” Reading this was a paradoxical experience. Repeatedly I had to admit Alyssa was absolutely correct and yet I was uncomfortable with her appraisal.

The movie is fantastic in depicting the outcome as being ideal. Some hurt feelings, a cry and a hug later and all is back to homeostasis. Most unconvincing was the resilience of her carved-from-cream cheese children. With as world-shattering as divorce can be for children, I wish I childhood had been as bad as theirs. The children of the story only go to augment our perception of the earth-mother Jane who can seek her own self-interest at negligible expense to those around her. I think if children were typically so well-adjusted after divorce and affairs we would not find them so upsetting. The fantasy projected is not that adults would have to change their behavior, but that children would change their natures.

The material demands a light touch on the real-life consequences. It’s Complicated reminded me of another movie I have reluctantly accepted my attachment to despite the subject material: Same Time, Next Year, which is about an adulterous pair that meets annually at the same location of their first tryst. It’s one of my favorite movies and more judgment-worthy due to the length of the affair.

For all its flaws, It’s Complicated demonstrates Meryl Streep’s Jane as a certain female ideal of long-suffering. In a post-feminist world, new generations of women are right to both embrace sex while correcting for poor choices in men. In every generation, albeit more pronounced in Streep’s, women can’t kill the hydra of appeal that comes from dangerous men and charming womanizers. To top it off, the divorced two have a history. I can only imagine that there is something magical in coming back to someone when they know every crevice of your – personality. Love is multi-faceted and maybe we can delight in its many forms.

I was watching another Penn Says, and in the most recent that has been inhabiting my conscious thoughts, Penn Jillette (shallowly?) rejected a friendship with a woman who refused to sleep with Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix (course language in the link). Penn quotes a friend who believes the purpose of life is to acquire as many great stories as possible. I am inclined to agree, even if that means I am most certainly not fulfilling my purpose in life. Salon published an article in 2004 with an unforgettable title: What French Girls Know -- Young girls in France learn early in life that happiness is not as important as passion. It’s a great article extolling the carpe diem life. I suppose my own dreams parallel the one in It’s Complicated, which is why it is such a fun romp. Alas, I’m Steve Martin and wide awake.