Day 19: Lifted, A Bit

I’m sleeping more lightly than usual. It could be Spain entering daylight savings time but it started a bit before this. At least I’m getting some sleep. I think others are struggling. I don’t have much to write about here. I’m trying to write for my fiction project more.

  • I took Alqo out to the monte early along with Moment’s wide 18mm lens. I love using it but I’m itching for new landscapes. It might be awhile before that happens.
  • It snowed today. I went down to the “gym” (my house’s bottom level, not really a basement but an unconnected open space with a concrete floor and a yoga mat) and finished in time to see it. Lasted about an 45 minutes or so.
  • Half of my book order came. The second batch has physical copies of Capital and The Three Body Problem which I’ve already started digitally, along with some other great stuff, all quite long. Working all day on a screen all day, my eyes get tired quickly. Started Kropotkin this morning and it was so enjoyable to hold a book and highlight. Today I received:
    • Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread
    • Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove
    • Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer
  • Reading Esmé L.K. Patridge’s Medium essay How to Cope with Self-Isolation, According to a 9th Century Islamic Philosopher.
  • Speaking of, Early Islam historian Ian David Morris is giving a free seminar on Twitch. I’m pretty excited about this. If you’re interested, do the reading first. It’s short.
  • Listening to This Is Scientist on Spotify (Similar playlist on Apple Music)

No More “How Will You Pay For It?”

Stony Brook University professor of economics Stephanie Kelton wrote about the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus for the Intercept:

Congress has ignored millions of people who have existed in a state of crisis for decades. The people of Flint, Michigan, (and elsewhere) still do not have safe drinking water. Millions of kids go hungry each day. Half a million people, before the pandemic, were homeless on any given night. And on it goes. There has been no multitrillion-dollar spending bill to combat these and other domestic emergencies. Instead, lawmakers have deprived communities of critical investments that could have attenuated their emergencies, often hiding behind the excuse that there isn’t enough money in the budget to deal with problems like these.

She would know. Kelton served as the chief economist for the DNC on the U.S. Senate Budget committee (2015/2016). This article elucidates the methods Congress uses to pass a budget that is ‘paid for’. But the stimulus is not paid for.

That is not what Congress is doing today. Instead of writing a bill that would send two sets of instructions to the Fed, Congress is pushing through a $2 trillion spending bill that will send just one set of instructions. No one is bothering to try to offset — i.e. “pay for” — that spending, because the goal is to get lots of money to people (and companies) without subtracting a lot away.

I keep thinking about republicans and liberals hyperventilating about the ‘cost’ of some of the progressive movement’s policies: Medicare for All, cancelling student debt, tuition-free college, etc. Many of these could be ‘paid for’ yes, by raising taxes on the wealthy. Or they could have been wiped away with a stimulus similar to this one. Arguably keeping money in everyday working people’s pockets during a crisis would have eased the trauma.

Day 14: the Shape of Things To Come

Can I scream?
We lack the motion to move to a new beat!
How can we expect anyone to listen if we are using the same old voice?
We dance to all the wrong songs
We enjoy all the wrong moves
— Refused: New Noise

As the dead pile up and the living struggle to meet ends meet around the world, I resign myself to this reality and try to focus on the here and now in our small, safe-for-now village. But my head spins as we are thrown into the peak of the coronavirus crisis while the dual shadows of a decaying and depraved globalized economy and climate breakdown lurk beyond.

I try to stay calm and present with the myriad micro-joys: the kitchen table where I (gratefully) work and write; the small patch of grass where Alqo sunbathes in the early spring mornings; the short walk up the carretera secundaria that exposes a footpath to wander the monte without being noticed by passing guardia civil patrols; a reluctant Amazon order of eight books of fiction and theory to allow myself a break from screens and the news cycle; a beautiful and simple daily routine of meditation, fitness, work, creativity, and delirious vegetarian gastronomy; the mobile panadería that feels even more essential and convenient to avoid the town.

The macro-agonies that I cannot outrun: immediate family members in a densely populated state that must continue to work; the ineptitude of the ruling class to help working people; an American stimulus that will barely cover a month’s rent and nothing else while leaving the many with either nothing at all or delayed disbursement; the prioritization and love of money that will prioritize illogical, fossil-fuel guzzling industries; the awareness that this is an overture and we will surely have another crisis within the next decade.

I’m not living up to the aspiration of stumbling toward hope. I can’t even stumble. It’s of my own doing. Talking to a few friends who are less tuned-in, maybe I could avoid things better, log off, dive into working on writing those novellas more, care less. Human brains aren’t equipped to soak up so much negativity with so little power to change or dismantle those culpable.

En fin. Unfortunately for me and possibly many others, the macro is consuming the micro. And this is just the beginning

Staying Inside: Solidarity from Solitude

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone“ — Blaise Pascal

Day X of lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, etc. Any word I use is lacking. The Spanish government has extended the confinement period until 12 April, past Semana Santa. I knew this was coming. Frankly, I think it’ll extend past this. The epicenters of the coronavirus crisis in Spain are brutal and the numbers of positive cases (to say nothing of unconfirmed cases or people thinking they have symptoms but cannot receive a test) are rising. Doctors are in tears on social networks lamenting the difficult decisions to pull elderly patients off respirators to give them to younger patients and begging us to stay inside to flatten the curve and stop the spread.

Outside of the Spain and other affected countries like Italy, I see the rumblings of the governments of the United Kingdom and the Unitedl States; simultaneously lying to the population about its preparedness, how deadly this can be, and prioritizing their economies over human lives. It breaks me a little bit. It breaks me, someone far away and relatively safe, because people look for leadership in times of crises. And those leaders are already diluting their advice to stay inside by suggesting we might need to stop that for the sake of the economy. I’ll say it a thousand times more and I’ll say it everyday. The capitalist class does not give a fuck about you.

People of the Occident have become so alienated and atomized from their fellows that to ask us to stay inside, to practice social distancing, to think of the more vulnerable in our society is beyond many.

Twitter isn’t a good measuring stick, but I see people being reckless about our current situation. They say we’re hyperventilating, they try to compare numbers of other illnesses and their mortality rates to for some good ol’ whataboutism, etc. How about we listen to doctors and nurses instead of people who received an email from their cousin who lives in his parents’ basement and crunched some numbers one night?

Look, there are many people who cannot stay inside; the unhoused, service sector workers, medical staff. I get that. But for the rest. The ones who can work from home, self-isolate. By all means, go for a walk alone, but don’t half-ass this. You could be responsible for saving lives just by being at home.

Have some solidarity. If we do this right, we could avoid much harm. Then we can start reorganizing this society to be more coherent and human-centered.