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All the suffering
That is preventable, if we all demand and fight for it
This essay is about all the suffering that has been, and will be, because it is important to discuss our condition as a species.
In this first chapter, I’ll concentrate on the United States of America, because that’s where I have spent most of my adult life, and that’s where I became a naturalized citizen, and that’s where I began to realize exactly how ugly much of the human condition is, and how privileged my own existence is, and how disgusting inequality extremes are.
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We do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.
—Mary Ann Evans, Middlemarch
My curse and blessing is that I am driven to shout into the void - all of us could be happier and healthier if we were just a bit kinder to one another. If we could just agree to attack our self-appointed overlords and make them cower in their own filth for the remainder of their natural lives. Now I sound slightly harsh.
Maybe instead, we could commit them to person-first asylums where healing is the primary goal. Yes. I can sleep better at night with those parameters invested into dealing with the orange authoritarian cults of personality.
This evening, I’m reading The Punishment Bureaucracy: How to Think About “Criminal Justice Reform.” This essay was written in 2019 by a social justice activist. Which is to say, a human who pays attention to systems thinking, which is to say, a being who looks underneath and opens doors others would rather not. This is a person who bravely ventures into smoke-filled back rooms, and doesn’t stop when he smells the putrid stench outside the factory where the sausage is produced.
I’ll summarize a few things I feel are important. In my adopted country, 2.2 million humans are confined in cages. In a nation with 5% of the world’s living humans, 25% of the world’s prisoners live in purgatory (or worse).
Between eighty and ninety percent of the people charged with crimes are so poor that they cannot afford a lawyer. Twenty-five years into America’s incarceration boom, black people were incarcerated at a rate six times that of South Africa during apartheid. The incarceration rate for black people in the nation’s capital, where I live, is nineteen times that of white people.
Alec goes on to eloquently explain that the idea that the legal system of my adopted nation-state is designed promote the wellness of all members of its databases and censuses is absurd. Rather, the systems of power are designed to extract resources from the powerless to benefit those at the top of the organizational chart.
Real reform, he argues, would require dealing with the undeniable fact that our society is implicitly designed to keep the majority of us ignorant and servile to a teensy, tiny, manipulative, and amoral minority of us.
The Donald Trumps of the world, although he is an outlier. Most of the Orange Evil in the world is canny enough to keep their evil on the down-low. As per usual in a stratified, modern society, the pecking order is extremely complex. Dare you go down the rabbit hole? It’s deep.
Nearly every prominent national politician and the vast majority of state and local officials talking and tweeting about “criminal justice reform” are, with varying levels of awareness and sophistication, furthering this deception. These “reform”-advancing punishment bureaucrats are co-opting a movement toward profound change by convincing the public that the “law enforcement” system as we know it can operate in an objective, effective, and fair way based on “the rule of law.” These punishment bureaucrats are dangerous because, in order to preserve the human caging apparatus that they control, they must disguise at the deepest level its core functions. As a result, they focus public conversation on the margins of the problem without confronting the structural issues at its heart. Theirs is the language that drinks blood.
FYI - all the footnotes in this essay lead to the same article. I’m stopping here for now with one central idea I think is incredibly important: Few ideas in America have caused more harm, historically, than the idea that all of us are governed by a dispassionate and neutral group of laws that apply equally to all members of the bureaucracy that is ‘Younited Staytes of Murica’ - one naytion unda Trump.
Society is a construct. So is rule of law. So is everything a human society demands or does not demand of YOU.
Where are we now? In this deep rabbit hole.
We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals . . . have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose—even for transforming murderers into judges.
If you’ve ever studied colonialism, you’ve been introduced to Camus. In future essays on this topic, we will delve into his backstory.
However, I’ll wrap up now, on this part, with a question: why is Donald J. Trump free, when his crimes are clearly, far more egregious than any Mafia bosses in the last five decades? How is it OK for a doddering, malignant fool to stay out of a cage while people are put in them for the cosmic accident of having been born in the wrong time, at the wrong place, with the wrong amount of melanin, or the right amount of negative social credit?
It seems illogical and maybe even evil. But what do you or I know? We’ve never been evil/rich (synonyms.)
I fight on, because I think billionaires and kings are both abominations. If that resonates with you, stay tuned.