zetasyanthis: (Default)
This is not going to be a happy post.  If it's not already obvious from some of my other journals, I have a pretty strange mental space, even when I'm ostensibly at peace.  I've come to terms with much of that, but sometimes I can't find that peace.  Tonight is one of those nights.

I'm an atheist.  I don't believe in much spiritually, and though I do respect the actual power those beliefs are given by those who hold them, that does have a significant impact on my world view.  It causes me to reflect on a wide variety of things, up to and including what I'd like to accomplish in my short time here.  (Early mid-life crisis triggered a few years ago.  :P)  That's a tough question to answer, especially when the goal-posts move as you try to chase them.  For now, though, I've settled on a short list.

1. I want to be comfortable being myself, and exploring what that means.
2. I want to grow and love and share my life with others, including one special one in particular.
3. I want to have the world I leave be a little more beautiful and a little less afraid than the one I entered.
4. At least part of #3, includes writing.  I'm an engineer, but I really want to write and inspire.

For a long time, I hadn't made progress on any of these, just kind of drifting along the paths set out for me by others.  I had tremendous opportunities, for certain, but when I finished the college track (for now) and emerged into the wider world, I started to realize that I hadn't really understood what living as on my own as a free member of society meant.  It turns out that, financial concerns aside for the moment, that's a pretty scary thing.  Following a nice, well-worn path and then finding yourself in the middle of an unknown field, still moving quite quickly, is a jarring experience.  Still, I can say with confidence that numbers one and two are in progress, and seem to be headed in a positive direction.

Number three?  That's the subject I really want to touch on tonight.  I've mentioned the extreme empathy thing before, and I'm not kidding.  I'm pretty severely off-balance tonight, because sometimes, I just can't handle the chaos and pain I see around me.  I don't quite shut down, but I feel paralyzed and frustrated, unable to do anything to help.  It doesn't matter the country, the location, or the reason, suffering anywhere really hits, and hits hard.

Recently, two things in particular have weighed on me particularly heavily, both of which have all sorts of complicated political ramifications.  The two issues are systemic economic insecurity/inequality and political repression/surveillance.  I realize these are topics that engender more than a few strong opinions, but I'm not looking for a debate just now.  This is more of a random thought-spew with a little brain-storming on the side.

I'm going to start with #1, economic insecurity/inequality...  I'm going to start off by saying that I have a pretty decent job myself, and barring my own stupid financial decisions, I'm more or less okay.  However...  I know a lot of folks, both in and out of the fandom, who struggle to get by on a day-to-day basis.  The ones lucky enough to have them work shit jobs, or multiple part-time jobs just to be able to live, and extreme hours leave them too drained to be able to actually do anything in their free hours.  This is insane, as far as I can tell, systemic, and I have no idea how to go about sanely fixing it.

Number 2 is an interesting animal as well.  I'm not going to touch on specifics of what's being done, why it's claimed to be necessary, or anything else.  What I want to touch on is the mindset of those making the decision, both here in the US, and those in other countries around the globe.  Re #1, there are a lot of very unhappy people around, and governments (our own included) seem to have gotten it into their heads that they can somehow learn about and control chaotic events.  In reality, the control they seek is not only imaginary but impossible.  People are inherently unpredictable, and no net, however vast, will catch everything and everyone.  It isn't impossible to seek out that control, however, or hurt a vast amount of people in the attempt.  Control is fundamentally something created by force, and one only has to look at repressive regimes, or chaotic ones like Iraq and Egypt, to see where that road leads.

I guess what I'm saying is this.  Problems, economic and otherwise, are causing chaos that we're (as a species, not the US in particular) attempting to deal with through surveillance and control.  That just doesn't work, so we need to find some way to build up support networks and trust in them.  We have to start being able to trust each other and recognize that our well-being is affected by not just ourselves!  How do we do that?  I don't know yet, but if you bother to read the news and know people who are hurting, you know it can't really wait very long.

Comments are welcome, but I do reserve the right to hide them if stuff gets nasty.  This isn't a discussion of whether these *are* problems.  I believe they are, and if you want to touch on that aspect, the rest of the Internet is open to you.  This place is for suggested solutions.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
[Originally posted on Blogger during my angry politics phase.  Please take this journal with a grain of salt and realize I've grown a lot since then.  :)]

I'm going to start this post by stating that I do not fully understand the underlying mess, nor am I an economist myself. I am an engineer, so I look for problems that need solving and attempt to find reasonable and optimum solutions to them.

This economic crisis, or the next one in a few year's time, may be the most transformative event the western world has experienced since WWII. We have built a hall of mirrors and shadows into our economic system in order to hide the localized costs of globalization from the general public. The structure by which this was made possible is now coming crashing down in a fury, and we need to work, and most importantly, think to get ourselves out of this. We are all guilty of action without thought in times of crisis, but that has not sufficed in the past, and it will not suffice now.

Michael Lewis, a writer for Condé Nast Portfolio, wrote a book in 1990 predicting this situation, and has a somewhat lengthy article here on the cause of our economic problems. If you wish to understand why we're in the mess we're in and what's going to happen before we can start to pull out of it, I'd highly recommend reading it. It presents his view from within the industry and details how we arrived at where we are, but unfortunately doesn't provide much in the way of solutions of how to get out of the crisis, as his outlook is a bit bleak.

Fear is an useful emotion. It drives us away from things we know to be bad for us, but it also trades off long-term goals for short-term satisfaction in many cases. It is my dearest hope that P.E. Obama realizes what we're going through and acts only after carefully considering what must be done, but I fear, as do many Americans, that he is just a continuation of the leadership failures we've had for so long. We will see in the coming months. Isolationism should never be our goal, but it is now more apparent than ever that we must turn inward and address our concerns at home as soon as is realistically possible, or we will fall apart from the inside.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
[Originally posted on Blogger during my angry politics phase.  Please take this journal with a grain of salt and realize I've grown a lot since then.  :)]

America is a nation divided. We are not divided by borders, nor by parties; we are note even divided by opinions, but by knowledge and the willingness to use it. Opinions stem from experience and wisdom, but even more so the ability to classify and use them.

If you were to take a poll of the top scientists in the world and ask them if they feel that evolution is a valid and correct theory, the result would be between 95-100% acceptance. If you were to take the same poll in Mississippi, which has the 50th ranked schools in the nation and pushes "Intelligent" Design at every opportunity, you'd likely end up with a rather different answer. Intelligence of the students is only one part of the equation. Fear is another. In that, and many other parts of the world, religion is used as a thought shield to protect the human mind against possibilities it does not want to face. The counter to this has finally emerged, however, and an humanistic atheist approach to life is slowly emerging around the globe. We need no longer be afraid of the darkness, the unknown, and now we can get on with our lives and build a better world for the future rather than hiding in the static shadows of the past.

Statistically, those with more money and higher education pick more atheistic routes through life, and in many cases, more humanistic ones as well. Many polls have taken place on this subject, but college graduates have historically had the highest rates of atheist approaches to life, and from a humanistic perspective, that is why so many become involved in politics. They know what is at stake and that what we do now will affect theirs and their children's futures, so they devote time and effort to making sure it will be a good one.

The two party system that has divided us for so long takes advantage of the gap between poor and rich, and has promoted anti-intellectualism as a way of propping itself up. That is now changing. The explosion of the internet and the knowledge contained within may well be the most destructive and creative force of our time, and focused properly, it will change the world at a whirlwind pace.

Our current economic crisis is the best current example of the difference between the new generation and those that are nearing retirement. We see opportunity in failure, and the ability to rebuild a stronger financial base in the place of those institutions that are falling like dominoes today. We must not abandon the lessons of history as we write another chapter, however, and only through careful consideration of the options and objective assessment can we hope to end this with a minimum of pain for all involved.

I've decided to start ending these posts with a quote from the wisest source I can find on a particular issue.

In the words of Frank Herbert, creator of the dune series:

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

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Zeta Syanthis

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