The Rube Goldberg machine of pain
Invoking “the deficit” is just saying “let them die” in more acceptable terms
Some thoughts from previous issues that seem relevant given the protests outside of Brett Kavanaugh's home this weekend.
A New York Times editor was fired for posting that she got chills watching Joe Biden’s plane land the other day. Aside from being that excited about Joe Biden in the first place what bothers me about her situation is this: Institutions do not care if you are biased you just have to be biased toward what we’ve collectively accepted as “neutral.”
No one at these institutions enforces anything like professionalism or decency when it comes to calling for and endorsing systemic violence against vast swaths of people but trivial shit is policed heavily to the point of losing your employment. Betraying your preference for a Democrat is considered a sin in journalism while expressing your desire to see people immiserated — foreigners or Americans — is considered so down the middle it barely even registers as having said anything at all.
This isn’t “cancel culture” by the way it’s the banality of standard issue American bloodlust and Puritanical punishment culture.
You can remain in good standing in media or politics while advocating for as much violence and pain as you want as long as you do so politely and aren't saying you'll directly deliver it personally. Writing a story called “Invade Iraq now!” — or Iran or wherever for that matter — will never get you fired but saying “I'm going to come kick your ass” to one specific person will. Saying “We need to reopen the economy” during a pandemic despite the massive loss of life that would result is fine while telling someone “I hope your parents die” is not.
In other words hoping for one death is an abomination while passively accepting or enabling the deaths of 100,000 is just astute politics to paraphrase the fella.
The whole thing is a stupid game like when kids annoy their siblings by saying “I'm not touching you” while poking them with a stick. The idea is that as long as there's a buffer between you and the violence you are calling for through systemic means then your soul and professional reputation can remain clean.
It should not to be clear but that’s the way this all operates.
I happen to think calling for or legislating untold suffering is a lot worse than saying pee and poo about a politician or saying like REST IN PISS SHELDON ADELSON YOU OLD DEAD BITCH or whatever but on the other hand I am unemployed so what do I know.
Almost every single utterance from a Republican (and plenty from Democrats) about their intended policy is an attempt to set violence against real people into motion by someone else's hands which is ok for some reason. Arguing that we can’t afford to send out $2,000 checks a month is in fact calling for people to die it’s just said with the cover of the savvy politics insider.
It's weird that we all know this but it's so obvious we just kind of let it pass. Even writing it out here feels kind of pointless.
Technically denying life saving and desperately needed money to people during a pandemic isn't killing them in the same way that shooting them would be it's just inserting the ball into the Rube Goldberg machine of pain that provides an exonerating and distancing sleight of hand between cause and effect. Invoking “the deficit” is just saying “let them die” in more acceptable terms.
I saw this bit from Condition of the Working Class in England written by Friedrich Engels in 1845 shared recently. Perhaps it sounds familiar.
When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains. I have now to prove that society in England daily and hourly commits what the working-men's organs, with perfect correctness, characterise as social murder, that it has placed the workers under conditions in which they can neither retain health nor live long; that it undermines the vital force of these workers gradually, little by little, and so hurries them to the grave before their time. I have further to prove that society knows how injurious such conditions are to the health and the life of the workers, and yet does nothing to improve these conditions. That it knows the consequences of its deeds; that its act is, therefore, not mere manslaughter, but murder…
I’ve been thinking a lot about killing people lately. No, not like that, relax.
What I mean is all the manifold ways people in this country with power of any kind use it to kill. Not directly mind you. Not with a knife or a gun. Instead I’m concerned with the much more mundane and pedestrian acts of violence that our legislators and other bureaucrats dispense perfunctorily under the cover of How Things Are Done. Most notable recently in this long and noble American tradition was the Senate vote on including a minimum wage raise in the Covid relief package over the weekend. All Republicans and eight Democrats including Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana, Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Angus King of Maine, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and, rather infamously by now, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, mustered their considerable powers, considered the plight of Americans currently working at the minimum wage, looked them in the eye and said:
No. Fuck you.
Or rather they didn’t look them in the eye and that’s sort of the problem. They made the lives of people struggling at poverty wages worse from the remove of and with the protective bracketing procedural politeness of the Senate. This, much like our legislators’ continued refusal to enact Medicare for All is an act of violence by another name. It is sending people to suffer and to starve and to scrape by and to slowly but surely die. It might take a bit longer than other more reliable forms or killing but it is killing all the same.
Sinema took the brunt of our anger for her no vote, coming as it did with a ready-made clip manufactured expertly to drive everyone insane, but then like clockwork the pushback to our collective dogpiling on our most epic Gen-X rockabilly anime Senator arrived.
“I stand by what I said: commentary about a female Senator's body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet,” her press secretary Hanna Hurley posted, a typical comment from many others made only more delightful with the visual of her driving a nice boat in her profile picture.
I am sorry but no. Fuck us? Fuck you.
No matter what you say about a senator, no matter how rude it is, it will never match the violence they very calmly and cordially enact on millions of people as a matter of course. Sinema’s goofy thumbs down was a distraction, but it’s not really the salient issue here. It’s her and her colleagues' indifference to so many of our lives.
Every single senator has killed more people than any random guy from your city doing 25 to life, they just get to do it in a way we have all agreed makes it not real for some reason. We're governed by serial killers!!
Here’s an honest question: Who do you think has been the cause of more deaths, Joe Manchin, or Ted Bundy?
Joe and Kyrsten can very calmly and within the bounds of the rules advocate for mass suffering without consequence — and barely even get off their asses to explain why they think we all deserve to eat shit — and we can’t even say what we think they have coming.
Whenever a regular guy kills one single person you can say all manner of fucked up shit about him. I hope he rots in prison I hope he gets what’s coming to him I hope he burns in hell etcetera. People love to say that sort of thing about a guy who merely destroys one life. But when it’s tens of thousands or millions harmed we can’t even verbalize what we wish would happen to them without getting in trouble.
This is all so fucking trite I know I’m sorry but it’s the Omar briefcase versus shotgun speech.
These people can give the disinterested emperor thumbs down for our collective well being and our recourse is what? Marching in the streets? No do not do that. Yelling at them in public? Can’t do that either. Hm. Protesting where they live?
I’m reminded of this dog shit from the other day.
More than 50 people marched Monday night to the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. They carried signs with messages such as “safe abortion is a human right” and “hey Kavanaugh resign now.” They chanted “My body, my choice” and “What do we want? Safe abortion access. When do we want it? Now.” No laws were broken, and the right to protest is sacred in this country. But that doesn’t make the events at Justice Kavanaugh’s suburban Maryland home any more acceptable.
STEPHEN A: Skip I want to ADDRESS this issue.
You KNOW the right to protest is sacred in this country…
STEPHEN A: BUT!
Voting harder it is then.
Oh wait people are actually saying that loool. No offense to this guy but come on man.
Next time it’s gonna be different I swear.
How are people like this walking around out there not constantly bedeviled? I am routinely bedeviled and I haven’t even done anything harmful! I can barely kill a spider without having an existential crisis over it. I am sometimes overcome by weltschmerz whenever I throw out an old toothbrush — you’ve served me well old friend but now it’s your time to go — that type of thing. And yet these people whose job is to represent our interests seem to float freely through the world unbothered and unmolested by either conscience or grief. What has it got to be like to be able to live like that?