Archive for January, 2017


“It Requires Revolt”

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A family member just accused me of caring too much about politics right now and argued that by caring as much as I do, I’m not helping the political situation in the slightest. I’m simply injuring my own mental health.
 
It is entirely possible that the former is true. I’m just one person. I have a platform as a professional writer, but it’s very small. And it is certainly as true as it can be that the individual words I write will probably have no substantive impact on American policy and American politics.
 
It is also true that caring as much as I do right now is negatively impacting my mental health.
 
I’m scared.
 
My anxiety is through the roof. I haven’t felt this off-kilter since my depression was at its worst circa 2009-2011 and I was on the verge of failing out of college. I honestly have no idea how long I can keep up this level of mental stress. It’s affecting my schoolwork. It’s affecting my professional life. I can not deny for a second that caring about the state of America right now is causing me severe mental harm.
 
But if I am forced to choose between my own mental well being and the knowledge that my actions are moral and just and that I can live with myself and sleep at night because I did them, I must refute the nihilism that nothing I do matters. Because even if I am crushed by oppression, I will have the knowledge that through myself I affirmed the ability of people to be better.
 

How much less suffering would exist in the world if more of us were willing to recognize that every person — regardless of the color of their skin, their sex, their gender, their religion, their country of origin, their ethnicity — is worthy of respect as a human being and that we should build our society in such a way that defending the fundamental humanity of all was a skillset we were taught from a young age and taught to value above virtually all else?

But, instead, we have a system where when the political goings get tough, we’re taught that the system isn’t worth fighting. And that is a belief to which I can no longer submit.

Suffering exists because we selfishly choose to advance our own interests at the cost of others well-being. This is a fact that can no longer be ignored. And if you view your fellow man as equal to you and due the same protections under the law as you, you must then also feel that it is your duty to do something to eradicate suffering. Choosing to do nothing makes you complicit.

I wrote about this idea in a broader sense in an article I wrote for Vice which you can read here. We all, every last one of us, have a moral obligation to think about what our actions mean for others and, even more importantly, what it means when we aren’t willing to do something to help others. If you get to do nothing as suffering exists, then the continuance of that suffering is on you. I know that many people will read these words and not internalize them. They might give lip service, but they will not know how to engage with them in their heart as true. But I write to anyone who hasn’t been asked to think about these things before and who has the capacity to envision their actions leading to a more just world.

Because if we can’t envision a better world and better, more just versions of ourselves, then there isn’t a reason to keep going. I refuse to believe that’s the world that we live in. To quote Camus for the second time in two weeks, “it requires revolt.”

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“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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There’s nothing magical that holds American democracy together.

I think that’s something that we take for granted. American democracy works — in the flawed, half-broken sense that it’s ever worked — because competing functions of our civil society implicitly agree to respect the constitutionally described powers of the other branches of our government while also respecting the enumerated limitations of their own branch.

This is basic civics. We have a government with three branches. The executive, legislative, and judicial. Each branch has certain powers that can be reduced (perhaps perilously) simply: the legislative branch decides what the laws are, the executive branch is tasked with enforcing/enacting these laws, and the judicial branch is tasked with interpreting these laws. Each branch has ways of keeping the other branches in check. It was one of the most carefully deliberated design elements of the Constitution. The legislative branch can impeach the executive branch and judicial branch. They have confirmation powers for many of the people  appointed to either of those branches. The executive can veto legislative decisions. They appoint the judiciary. The judiciary can decide if the laws or actions of the other two branches are unconstitutional. And if these laws are unconstitutional, it’s the purview of the judiciary to tell the other branches of the government that they have to change their behavior.

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Hitman 2016 is a game that does many things very well, but it is also a game that does one thing exceptionally well.

I’ve been feeling unenthused lately about a lot of AAA game narratives because the fundamental disconnect between how the games play and the story they’re trying to tell you became too vast.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a game about guilt and relationships and family but it’s also a game where the main character — a happy-go-lucky treasure hunter — kills hundreds of people and doesn’t really lose his trademark smarminess. Slaughtering people is never interrogated; it’s just how Nate achieves his goals.

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