Waiting for a different kind of drowning to begin

Someone might be coming over the horizon to save you

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Did you miss this Hell World about qualified immunity and our unaccountable violent cops from the other day? Check it out here if so.

I haven’t seen the film Open Water since it was released almost twenty years ago so I cannot tell you if it is “good” or if it “holds up surprisingly well” or whatever it is people say about movies. I can tell you however that I have thought about it regularly since then and I’ll probably think about it for the rest of my life. I thought about it just yesterday in fact while swimming my clumsy little laps in the community pool while the snow fell outside and a dozen scuba-divers-in-training floated silently in the deep end a few lanes over. I’ll think about it next time I go out on a boat or jump into the ocean. Fuck it I’m going to think about it even more than usual right now.

If you never saw it yourself the film concerns a couple who go on a scuba diving vacation somewhere in the Bahamas I think. Somewhere near there. Near enough to there that it doesn’t matter. They go to the ocean anyway. At some point ocean is just ocean. Due to a miscount by the person leading the scuba expedition the couple emerge from the depths to realize the boat has left them behind. Goddamnit.

At first they presume that the mistake will be rectified in the way that we all do when something goes wrong. Well this is fucked but certainly order will be restored presently we think.

“Other people go on vacation and spend their days just laying around,” the husband Daniel says at one point. “We have a story we’re going to be telling for the rest of our lives.”

Indeed they do it’s just that their lives don’t end up being as long as they had imagined they would be. As I’ve said in here before a day is very long but a life is so short.

As they float further and further away from the original dive spot they bicker and blame one another and grasp for something different they could have done that would have saved them from this ordeal as if logic is a shield against chaos but eventually the realization that there is no order to things and that two people can in fact be left behind like this dawns on them.

I guess it’s partly based on a true story about a couple in Australia this happened to although I don’t think that matters for the film. It’s true either way.

So thirst sets in quickly and the sun burns their faces as they bob on the tide and swarms of jellyfish sting — “It hurts.” — and sharks begin to circle. All that’s left is for the two of them to continue living born along on the waves for as long as they can not knowing which of them is going to die first. To watch it happen and to describe it makes it sound horrific which it of course is but it’s also just a sped up version of how life works anyway maybe. There’s no rescue boat coming and the sharks have spotted us. You hope you go before the person you love because you can’t bear to watch it happen when there’s nothing you can do for them.

It made me think just now about how nearly a million Americans have died over the past two years from the pandemic. Their loved ones sitting by helplessly watching and waiting for a different kind of drowning to begin.

It’s probably not a spoiler to tell you how the film ends anymore so than it is to spoil how any life ends which is that it ends. It’s the waiting though. Every moment thinking even now even now even now someone might be coming over the horizon to save you.

Alternatively if you wanted to experience the sense of the rushing onset of your own mortality you could have simply watched the Super Bowl halftime show last night featuring Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and all them. I thought it was great by the way but then again I am in my forties so I have a conflict of interest here. What a night! Sopranos and Lebowski ads and middle aged rappers. This must have been what it felt like to be a boomer all those years. Yes it’s cynically having your own nostalgia sold back to you but on the other hand at least someone is recognizing you exist.

Sorry I imagine that was all pretty depressing to read on a Monday morning up there so to cheer you up please join me in learning about the name of the recently resigned head of the London Metropolitan Police Federation a certain Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick. People in London loved to be named Cressida Dick. I don’t really have a full grasp of what the story is there apparently there was some sort of “row” with the mayor of London. People in London also love to get into rows. I can tell you after reading about it briefly though that the cops are crying about something big time which cops in any country of course are very good at.

Speaking of cops what are you doing for Valentine’s Day today? Hopefully anything besides this suggestion by the Holden, MA Police Department.

We never should have let police get on the computer. That or let them get sleeve tattoos. Yes police were always bad before then but something turned sour real quick in the aftermath. It’s unseemly man.

Here’s some other great police work from the brave boys in blue in Chicago. There’s a lot going on in here but what it is about is the cops taking six months to finally arrest a woman who had vandalized a memorial to a dead cop by crumpling up her photo. This is a felony apparently. Tearing up some paper.

It gets worse from there in the next tweet though.

It’s hard to talk about how gross this type of shit is without sounding like an insane person but what’s going on here is what has been going on with the way we treat police and the troops as a separate class of revered and sainted warrior priests in this country for a long time now. You see it in this case with the sacred and symbolic idol — a printed out picture of a cop — being treated with devotional reverence as well as in the use of the handcuffs as a blessed artifact representing the spirit and power and symbolic strength of not just this one cop but of all cops everywhere. It’s something like the sacrament after it’s been imbued with the body of Christ through transubstantiation.

This is all part and parcel of our slavish devotion to our American civil religion which Nora Reed laid out for us in a Hell World from a couple of years ago. It sounds somewhat obvious as a concept but if you’ve never thought about it like this before everything sort of starts to click together. I’ll quote a good chunk of her explanation here because I think it’s worth revisiting.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, American civil religion refers to the thing where Americans are indoctrinated from a young age into treating the flag like a religious idol, and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as religious texts. The way Americans think of the ‘founding fathers’ as sort of elevated demigods — and the backlash that results from pointing out historical details like the fact that many of them owned slaves and/or were rapists — is a component of this. Rituals like the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem at sporting events, letting members of the military off the plane first etc. are all aspects of American civic religion.

The civic religion is a big part of why it's incredibly easy to manipulate Americans by accusing people of disrespecting the troops or being unpatriotic; both the vague ideas of ‘the troops’ and ‘patriotism’ are treated as sacred values and when I say that the idea of ‘the troops’ is vague I'm referring to the fact that people can engage in all the rituals of standing for the National Anthem etc. and can demonize people who don't, and still feel comfortable supporting politicians who won't fund the VA.

Most of the popular strains of Christianity make room for the civic religion, though there are always a handful of groups who identify stuff like the Pledge of Allegiance as idol worship, but one of the reasons that Muslims are so feared/hated is that Islam is seen as incompatible with the American civic religion. This is one of the reasons why screaming about ‘sharia law’ is such a successful tactic. …

9/11 has been a fucking godsend to the civic religion, which is why political figures have replaced any actual memorial to the people who actually died with this mushy ‘sacred’ nonsense and shit about respecting troops and cops. Co-opting deaths to use for the civic religion isn't unique to the ‘never forget 9/11’ phenomenon; look at the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. in the popular imagination vs. anything he actually stood for.

Doing the civic religion publicly and loudly while never acknowledging its religious-ish nature is something both Democrats and Republicans do; it's basically a requirement to be a politician. There's a long tradition of conservatives accusing anyone less conservative of them of demonstrating inadequate Loyalty To America, which among politicians is always responded to by Loudly Demonstrating They Are Loyal. Asking the question of what America has done to earn that loyalty and whether loyalty to America is actually a virtue is verboten. …

Not sure if this is related to all of that there but did you know that 2021 saw the most police killings of any year since the Washington Post started keeping track? It was about three people killed a day. It’s been about 900 a year since 2015.

Even knowing how bad everything is even being aware of how things work I have to admit I am still somehow shocked at how they are getting away with treating Steven Donziger. If you’re not familiar with Donziger’s persecution by a partnership of our corrupt judicial system and Chevron — and you very well may not be because I don’t see it in the news every single day like it should be — then read more in this Hell World here.

The woman in Chicago is a political prisoner much like Donziger is.

If someone were to ask you if XYZ type of worker was routinely and systematically being fucked over by their employer you and I would say yes of course they are. We might not know how but we would know they were. The spice of American life is finding out the specific manner in which they’re being fucked that none of us ever really had a reason to know about or to ever imagine. Take the case of flight attendants which I literally just heard about.

This Change.org petition lays out the details. Apparently and again this had never occurred to me flight attendants are not paid while planes are in the process of boarding which seems like a fairly busy time for them as best I can tell. Guess not!

Flight Attendants are currently not paid for boarding. They are paid what is deemed as “hourly rate,” which is below minimum wage. Until the door is closed and the brakes are lifted flight attendants are paid on average $2.00/hour. Even though they are required by their company and the FAA to be there and perform crucial job-related safety and customer service duties. Airlines are taking more and more of Flight Attendants' time. In the past decade, boarding has gone from 30, to 35, to 40 minutes. These decisions were made by management and no flight attendants were consulted during this decision-making process.

Never underestimate the myriad and mysterious ways employers in American will conceive of to scrape every last nickel from the people performing the actual labor they profit off of.

Covid is over if you want it!

I thought this piece by Steven Thrasher in Scientific American on the very rational and wise OPEN ‘ER BACK UP COVID IS OVER pundit gang was good. It goes in part like this:

Is it rational to ignore the high communal viral load in American society and to not do more to lower it so that fewer people are exposed, become sick, transmit onwards and possibly die?

Is it rational for the Times to be advertising an event happening in March hosted by Leonhardt called “The New Normal, a Virtual Event on Life and Love After Omicron,” which might just coincide with the timing of the millionth American officially dying of COVID?

Well, it depends on what it is you are trying to rationalize.

If you’re trying to get people to accept that what the nation is doing right now is okay, and 50,000 deaths per month should be normalized, then it’s rational.

If you don’t want people to wonder why in just two years, the U.S. death toll for COVID is about 130 percent the size of the death toll of four decades of HIV—while global COVID deaths are less than 20 percent of the world’s AIDS deaths—then it’s rational.

If you want to manufacture consent for looser pandemic measures in the U.S. rather than more comprehensive ones as the communal viral rate demands, then making these claims is rational.

But it’s not ethical to manufacture what I call a viral underclass, and it’s incorrect to pretend as though the news media have no role in creating it nor in persuading the public that so many deaths are inevitable.

I am going to get a job at the New York Times writing a new story every other day about different places I think I should be able to smoke cigarettes again. Every Airport Should Have One of Those Disgusting Little Prison Cells They Let You Rip Heaters In Real Quick Before Catching Your Connecting Flight.

The safety-ists and cigarette scolds have had their way for too long. It’s time to fire up some heaters. If you don’t want to breathe in my secondhand smoke then you can stay home.

Also on the OPEN UP subject I thought this piece by a fella known as @BartenderHemry was pretty funny:

The way forward is clear: in order to free our society from the tyranny of these mental restrictions and return to normal, the government must intervene. A program of encouragement would be a good start, with politicians constantly and annoyingly urging people to go out and party, and providing light financial incentives that scale up based on the number of people each citizen socializes with every month (this could replace the Child Tax Credit, an enormous misstep that encouraged parents to stay home with their rotten kids). We don’t need to ban working from home outright (after all, some of us deserve to do it) but we should consider a messaging campaign that encourages people who are doing it because of COVID to perhaps consider themselves “idiots” and “a blight on society.”

The stick to these carrots could be a host of new taxes on anti-social activities, such as making food at home, excessive zoom-calling, adopting pets that require too much attention, etc etc. Those new tax revenues could then be used to extend crucial financial assistance to restaurant and entertainment businesses so they can do what I have termed “opening harder”: universally extending their hours to a Vegas-like 24/7. In areas where there are shortages of workers for these new hours, deploy the National Guard to tend bar, wait tables, and, if necessary, to pole-dance. If at any point occupancy at these establishments falls below 50%, these same guardsmen can be deployed throughout the neighborhood to simply and effectively “encourage” the residents to get out there and live their lives, free from the damnable scourge of fear.

Ok that’s all for today goodbye and I’m sorry. Feel free to chip in if you like what you read here.

Welcome to Hell World is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.