Posted in Being human

My grandfather’s violin.

To call my grandfather a rat bastard would be an understatement.  He was callous, cruel, and didn’t seem to care about the suffering he caused.  It’s hard to describe his cruelty without clichés:  Molesting children, torturing cats to death, running over dogs on purpose for the hell of it.  This was not what you’d call a nice man, or a good man.  And he did cause a lot of suffering and death.

I know you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead.  But describing his character in detail is necessary to understand what I’m trying to say in this post.  Because it would be hard to overstate his cruelty to animals and humans alike.  The main danger in describing him is to overlook the fact that even the cruelest human beings are still human beings, not cartoon caricatures of evil.

Anyway, my grandfather repaired and built musical instruments.  When I was young, I started learning the violin.  I was good at it for my age.  I didn’t know how good, which was probably a good thing:  I was being bussed to the junior high orchestra at the age of six, when most students started at nine and didn’t join the junior high orchestra until, well, junior high.  I was there in first grade.

My grandfather loved music.  Lest I paint too rosy a picture of him, he performed blackface.  So he could even find ways to make music a bad thing.  But he acted most like a decent human being in connection to music, of any time I ever saw him.

There was a violin he’d had for years.  It was older than he was, a student violin made in a German factory around 1914.  These kind of violins varied a lot in quality.  This one was pretty good.  He kept it in good condition for decades, and when he learned I played the violin, he sent it to me.  No explanation.  No conditions on what I needed to do to earn it.  Nothing I had to do for him in return.  This in itself was unusual for him.

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I have short arms.  And I was young.  So I couldn’t play this full-sized violin when I first got it.  I got to know it, instead.  I got to know it by the feel of the wood on my face, the smells, the sound of the body as I tapped it.  I got to know the blue fuzz inside the case, the little documents of its first sale, the history written in my grandfather’s old-fashioned handwriting, the smell of the old cake of rosin, the glint of mother-of-pearl on the bow, the smell and feel of the horsehair.  The violin became my friend.

Eventually I was able to play it.  Like always, I practiced all the time.  I loved playing, for its own sake.  I loved interacting with this friend in every way I could.  My arms and hands were small, and I had a neuromuscular condition that made it hard, painful, and tiring to hold it up at all, but I did all these things as long as I could, just to play it.

But then I had to repeat fourth grade in a new school.  This school had no music program, despite having a lot more money than the public school I had attended before that.  I fell out of practice.

I grew to fear this violin.  It was so old, I thought I’d break it.  I kept it with me into adulthood though.

And then one day in my mid-twenties I picked it up and started playing.  I was astonished.

I was not, and will never again be, good for my age at this point.  I’m too weak to put in the practice.  My technical skills have slipped.

But something else had grown inside me, with time.  Deepened.  And so had the violin.

So that when I played… I was no longer playing other people’s songs.  Songs were playing me.  Songs came out that talked about the redwood forest, my original home.  Songs came out that talked about everything that was happening around me and inside of me.  There was this resonating depth that I couldn’t shake.

And I could feel my feet.

Feeling my feet is always a good sign.  If I can feel my physical presence from head to toe, something is going very right.  It happens every time I pick up this violin and play it.

This violin came from my grandfather.  This thing that brings me in touch with the deepest parts of myself and the world around me, this lifelong friend and companion, this thing that has deepened me and deepened along with me.  Came from the guy who used to imitate the sounds of the cats he tortured, just to horrify me.

If you want to know what gives me hope in the world, it is that.

It is that good things can come from the worst places.  That some of the worst people we encounter can’t seem to help doing some things that are good, regardless of their intentions.

I’ve called myself the bleakest optimist you’re likely to meet.  It’s because I see the good in the world, but I don’t do it by ignoring the bad or pretending the bad is something other than what it is.

I think bleak optimism is what the world needs right now.

I think we need to understand that the world has people in it who torture cats for fun. And all kinds of other horrifying people and events.  But that sometimes they’ll give you a violin that does nothing but good.  For no apparent reason.

We need to be able to be realistic, yet to hope and see and create good things at the same time. It’s the only way to handle what the world has in store for everyone right now on so many levels.

And my grandfather’s violin is a good example of how I find that hope.

Posted in Californication, Problems and solutions

Denial won’t get you water. We need solutions that don’t involve playing pretend about what’s happening.

I used to run from the fact that I’m an Okie.  Hide from it.  Pretend it wasn’t there.  This is understandable:  I associated this part of my heritage with a massive collective, generational trauma kind of situation.  It was easier to pretend it didn’t exist.  But it still existed.  And I feel a lot more whole once I stopped running from it.  I’ve learned things about myself, my family, and my culture.  And I’ve learned what this history — even the bad parts — can teach me about the world, about what I take for granted, what I don’t, and how that differs from other people.  And that’s valuable information to have.

So background if you don’t know what an Okie is:  In this context, it’s a bunch of people who fled economic and environmental disaster in Oklahoma and surrounding states mostly during the thirties but some before that and some after that.  A lot of us, including my grandparents, came to California and worked the fields in the San Joaquin Valley.  (The major agricultural center of the state.)  We weren’t welcomed.  If you’ve heard of us at all, it’s probably from the Grapes of Wrath, which paints a limited picture.  We’re from pretty diverse backgrounds and have pretty diverse opinions.  By now, we’ve sort of blended in — sort of — and the open hate is mostly behind us although there are subtle reminders, and even a lot of Californians only vaguely know about us.  (Especially since a lot of Californians think the San Francisco area and the Los Angeles area are California, but I’m getting off track here.  Suffice to say California has its own version of flyover country and my father was born there, raised all over Kern and Tulare counties.)

So okay.  One thing I have always understood is that resources are limited.  That you can’t fuck around with the physical world around you and not have it fuck you around right back.  That you can’t live without water.  That no amount of denial, no matter how sophisticated a form it takes, not even any amount of money, can ultimately get around that:  You can’t live without water.  And you can’t fudge these things.  You can put off the inevitable by moving things around, but you’re only making things worse by using up resources faster instead of using them more wisely.

I grew up in and around Silicon Valley.  A place with a lot of people in it whose form of denial takes the form of wealth and technology.  They think throwing a ton of money, intellect, or technology at a problem will solve it.  When they aren’t busy just imagining that the limits of the real physical world will go away if they transcend their physical form using the power of positive thinking or bullshit along those lines.  In extreme forms, I’ve seen the technology thing take the form of “Resource shortages will stop existing if we pour all of our effort into creating a superhuman computer that will know how to synthesize elements from scratch.”

Guys, you still need raw materials to synthesize things from, even if that were possible, which I doubt it actually is.  And your belief that technology will simply continue accelerating, getting more and more sophisticated and amazing, into the indefinite future, is not born out by history.  At all.

And yeah we need people thinking about how to solve these problems.  And we need people inventing things to help us solve these problems.  But throwing all your energy and money and time into a supercomputer that’ll probably never exist, is not the way, guys.  And all of your thought, all of your invention, all of your innovation, it all has to be grounded in certain basic aspects to reality.  And there’s a lot of people in Silicon Valley and other technological hotspots who live in a dream world where they can’t even see the people working the assembly lines in the next room over, let alone the people digging up and refining the materials, growing and harvesting the food, the complex physical web of physical actions in physical reality that exists in order to prop them up in their technological dreamland.

My dad was a type of person I actually saw a lot of in Silicon Valley:  A rural Okie techie.  They acted, looked, and dressed different than the other techies, came from different roots, approached problems differently.  My father wanted to be a farmer, but small family farms were being driven out of existence by the horrors of corporate farming that’ve taken over large parts of California.  His grandfather, who never graduated junior high, believed strongly in education and had saved up to subsidize an education for his grandchildren.  My dad got a two-year degree and became an electronics technician.  He moved to the Bay Area to find work.  There’s lots of people like him.  People who, like him, grew up tinkering with electronics in the attics of their farms in their spare time, cobbling things together from radio parts.  People who combined inventiveness and practicality.

And he took that to his job.  Technically his job was to build electronics for particle physics experiments.  In reality his job was a lot more complicated than that.  He might be doing engineering, even though his job title and pay were technician because he had never been to school for engineering.  He might be teaching grad students in engineering who knew less than he did.  He might be digging ditches and setting up equipment.  His job drew really well on the skills he had and he was very valued there.

And like a lot of the Okie techies I’ve met, he had that streak of practicality, that understanding of the hard physical limitations of reality, that a lot of other techies seem to lack.  His parents came to California fleeing drought, dust storms, hard times, and the biggest manmade environmental disaster the world had seen at that point.  He grew up and worked on farms.  He knew where things came from.  All of us knew where things came from.  And we knew what happens when things run out.  And what happens when you run them out too fast.

Okies have been warning of a second dust bowl since at least the fifties.  The solutions found for the dust bowl have involved piping water around in ever-increasing quantities without changing much else.  Aquifers — underground stores of water — that had been around forever, that had huge quantities of water, are now being depleted.  The fields my family worked existed in a converted desert, water piped in from elsewhere.  Tulare and Kern counties are now the epicenter of the California water crisis.  I’ve seen the change in my lifetime.  And it’s only going to get worse.

You can’t live without water.

You can’t produce water by magic.  Not even technological magic.

You can run out of water.

You can’t play musical chairs with water, moving it around from one place to another, hoping you won’t be the one dehydrating to death or living on arsenic-tainted water when the music stops.

I’ve always been disturbed by the stock market.  I used to think it made no sense because I was dumb or hadn’t been raised by people who invested.  And who knows what all makes it hard for me to understand.  But I’ve realized part of it is it’s like a giant game of musical chairs where there’s not a lot of chairs and everyone’s running around moving the chairs around trying to conceal how few there are.

But at least stocks are sort-of imaginary.  Like they take a level of abstraction to even believe in.  They have serious consequences, because symbolic as they are, the things they deal with are based in physical reality, like everything, you know, actually, real.  But they’re really just ideas, immensely powerful ideas.  (This is one reason I’ve always found them hard to understand.)

Right now there’s people speculating on water like it’s a fucking stock.

Here’s the thing about water:  It runs out.

You can move it around in circles and use it and use it and use it and make money off it… and if you try that, you’re gonna kill a lot of people because we all need water.  You will run out of water if you do this.  You will.  There are no questions here.

I understand the specifics of California because I grew up there.  But this is affecting the entire world.  I live in Vermont.  I live next to a giant lake — almost but not quite made one of the Great Lakes.  These water speculators have been very interested in buying our water and making money off it.  This is going on all over the world.  It needs to be resisted whenever and wherever it happens.

You can’t live without water.

The real physical world has real physical limits.

All resources can run out if used badly.

These are things I know because I’m an Okie.

These are things you need to know too.

When you stop running from a problem, you can face it.

We need to face something about this:  It is already a crisis.  People are already dying.  In California, in the rest of the world.

Everything we do to destroy water destroys ourselves.

Speculating on water to make money is basically playing a gambling game with the future of every life form that depends on water (which is all of us):  This is evil and needs to be stopped.

The things that many corporations and wealthy individuals are doing to water and other resources are not things that will be solved by taking few or no showers, not flushing the toilet, drinking as little as possible, and not watering the lawn.

And all those farm laborers in the San Joaquin Valley who are having to buy water or drink arsenic-tainted water?  Let me just illustrate this for you if you don’t realize how fucked up it is.

The only real job I ever did and got paid for was on a horse farm in the San Joaquin Valley.  It involved a lot of hard physical work in blistering summer heat.  The San Joaquin Valley gets really frigging hot in the summer.  Easily 110 degrees in the shade, hotter in the sun.  So hot that where I lived, all the stores let you take your dogs inside because leaving them in the car would kill them, end of story.

You need a lot of water to do that kind of work in that heat.  And the corporate farms are using all their water on plants — often plants that get them a lot of money — and leaving none for their farmworkers.  The farmworkers have to buy their water or use tainted water.  People are dying.  This is obscene.  It’s also part of the nonsense reality lived in by people who seriously think that their money will protect them from drought and famine when their crops can no longer grow, or no longer be harvested.  Maybe for individuals, that’s true to a limited extent, but collectively, they’re even screwing themselves over in the long run.  And even if you live nowhere near California or the other real centers of this ongoing crisis, they’re screwing you over too.  If you have to eat and drink, you’re getting screwed over.  Money can cushion you for a little while, it won’t cushion everyone forever.

It alarms me how little many people understand the physical underpinnings of their own survival.  Where food and water come from, how they get in the ground, how they grow or are raised, how they’re pumped or harvested or slaughtered, how they’re gotten to you, all the people and animals and plants and fungi and bacteria doing their part in all this.  How fragile this is.  How our biggest obligation is to protect it because without it we have nothing.  And I mean nothing.

Anyway — as I said, lifestyle changes by ordinary people won’t do damn near enough.  Hell, even if everyone in California got their act together, and used water as wisely as humanly possible, at this point you’ve got more people there than the natural level of water there can possibly support indefinitely and you’re already dealing with the consequences.

I’m not saying this to make you hopeless.

I’m saying this because I hope someone with the power to do so will wrest control away from the people who are hell-bent on destroying basic physical things that nobody and nothing can live without.  Before things get even worse.  Things are already bad, going to get worse, but we still have a choice to change things so that they aren’t the worst of the possible worst.  (And if you think the worst of the possible worst is human beings not surviving, you haven’t grasped the enormity of the problem.)  And we have an obligation to do what we can.  An obligation to every person and every living thing who stands a chance of surviving even a little bit longer and suffering a little bit less if we change things.   Which is all of us, and our descendants, and all other living things.

I’m just a mostly-housebound disabled person blogging this from bed.  I’m saying these things because I have some hope that an Okie perspective on resource shortages may spur some people — people who can leave the house — into understanding what’s at stake, and figuring out what to do about it.  Figure out solutions but ground your solutions in practical reality, or they are no solutions at all.  And part of the solutions has to be — has to be — stopping various extremely wealthy people and corporations from literally ripping the ground out from under our feet, and our water and other necessities beneath it.

For a brief understanding of the water situation in California, you could do a lot worse than the documentary Water and Power: A California Heist which last I knew was available on Netflix, and for rental on Amazon and YouTube.  Here’s a trailer:

If you want to know about the history of the Dust Bowl, its causes, its consequences, and its later implications which are beginning to come true as warned, there’s a longer documentary series by Ken Burns called The Dust Bowl.  I learned things from it, and I’m an Okie.  But it’s that cultural foundation, learned without being formally taught in any way, that’s allowed me to have the perspective I have on the meaning of resources in general and water in particular.  If that or something similar isn’t in your background, you could learn a lot from watching it.  Most people have no idea how bad it was, and how much worse it eventually will be.  The story’s definitely told from a certain perspective that leaves a lot of people (like the original inhabitants, still there) out, but the basic physical facts are told in glaring excruciating detail by interviews with people who were there.  And that’s what you should get out of this:  What it was like, how it happened, and how the solutions aren’t solutions, and the likely consequences.

Here’s a trailer for that one:

Most Dust Bowl survivors are dead now.  They can’t tell you what it was like except as recorded voices in documentaries like that one.  And many survivors were already dead when it was made.

I feel like as an Okie descendant it’s my duty to pass on the knowledge that was passed on to me:  What resources are, what misusing them does, the fact that reality has hard physical limits that nobody and no thing and no amount of money or denial or fake quick fixes can ultimately outrun.  And why we need to work creatively within those limits and really damn fast, to build the best possible future for as many people as possible.

And as a Californian who lived through Enron, why privatization isn’t the solution (Water and Power gets into it in more depth, there’s devastating information about Australia).

And as a disabled person who’s experienced severe dehydration (from not being able to get enough water, from fluid loss, and from conditions that made it impossible for my body to properly use the water it had, at various times).  Like everything from can-barely-manage-it-at-home dehydration, to ER-level dehydration, to hospitalization-level dehydration, ICU-level dehydration.  To tell you, at the most visceral level possible, that is not how you want to die.

And this is already happening.  If it’s off in the future for you it’s only because you’re really lucky.  It’s happening right now.  All we can do is throw on the brakes and find a way to truly change how things are being done to the best extent possible within the limits of physical reality and not some distant dreamworld.

If you’re reading this, and can do so, please do more than I can do.  If you’ve convinced   that things are so terrible nobody can do anything so why try, please read my last post, “We’re doomed, so we can do whatever we want…” and then try to get your head out of your ass before you hurt someone.  Despair will kill more people faster and more cruelly than anything else we could possibly do.  It’s important to be able to stare reality straight in the face, without flinching away or denying it, and then stand up and say “I’ll do what I can, because it’s the right thing to do.”

We owe this to each other.  Hope doesn’t mean ignoring reality.  It means facing reality as honestly as possible, finding the point where “What I can do” and “What needs to be done” meets, and doing it, because it’s right.

Posted in Being human

“We’re doomed, so we can do whatever we want…”

I’m hearing it a lot lately.  A sense that the future is already doomed to be terrible no matter what we do, so why should we do anything, what could we possibly do that would make any difference at all?

I have a lot of thoughts on that.  They’re hard to put into words.  So I’ll tell you a true story.

A few years ago, I was dying.

Obviously, I’m still here, so something changed.  More on that later.  But, what’s important is, I knew I was dying.  Without anyone intervening, giving myself a year was a little too generous.  I was pretty sure I’d never see 34.

I kept coming close enough to death to touch it, close enough that if I had simply stopped trying to be alive, my body would have shut down and nobody would have known I had any say in the matter.  It was happening more and more often.  I was getting weaker.  I started passing out and becoming unable to breathe on my own.  I’d wake up at 3 in the morning to the sound of my bipap alarm going off.  This alarm was supposed to wake me up if the settings designed to jump-start my breathing again didn’t start me taking breaths on my own.  My head would be flopped so heavily on my chest that I couldn’t lift it, and the tissue in my neck was so strained it was excruciatingly painful.  I’d try to move my hands to press a button to call for help, but they were so weak I could barely move my fingers.  I’d realize that even though I was awake, I wasn’t breathing on my own even a little.  The alarm was still blaring.  The bipap was shoving a whole breath of air into my lungs, they’d deflate on their own, and then the bipap would shove another breath in.  I’d know I could die right then.  But I felt no emotion.  The alarm kept going.  I’d try to stay awake, but I’d get woozy and pass out, only to have this repeat a few times, alarm still going, and then in the morning I’d be able to move again, at least as well as I could move at the time, which wasn’t very.

I knew that eventually this would happen while I was awake and not already hooked up to the bipap.  And that if nobody saw me, I would die.  I also knew every time I got sick, I got much sicker than I should, and often became so weak that it took willpower to keep my blood pumping and my lungs breathing.  Weaker than some people I knew had been on the last days of their lives.  It got worse every time, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I got too weak to power through it with effort.  I could also feel, on a deep, instinctual level, the knowledge that my body was preparing to shut down for good.

I didn’t tell anyone how bad it was, not even the people closest to me.  But I was not in denial.  I was grappling with the emotional and moral implications of my impending death.  I just didn’t want to deal with other people’s reactions.  Later, when my father was dying of cancer, he didn’t tell anyone until he ended up in the hospital so sick that he’d been given a week.  (He turned out to have pneumonia, which they treated, but he died a few months later.)  I understood why he did that, but I began to realize that if I had died, it would’ve robbed my loved ones of a chance to say goodbye to me.  At any rate, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I did think about my own death a lot, and how it affected my life.

Obviously, I’m still here.  What happened was two different doctors happened to run two different tests just as time was becoming short.  They showed I had a severe hormone deficiency (the amount in my body was too small to measure, and it’s necessary for physical survival), and a neuromuscular disease.  Both of which were treatable.  So I survived.  But this isn’t one of those ~never give up hope for a cure~ stories.  One, I’m not cured by a longshot — instead of facing an inevitable slow decline into death like before, I now exist in a precarious state where, if I get the right support and treatment, my health is like a house of cards:  It can get very tall indeed, but one thing pulled out at the wrong moment and I could die in hours.  And two,  I had no reason to think anyone would figure out what was going wrong with my body, and most people in my position would have been diagnosed in autopsy.  In fact, it was phenomenal luck many times over that I hadn’t died before the time they actually found what was going on.  So the point is, I really had to face my death in the same way that anyone facing imminent death has to.  I had no realistic expectation of an out.

So where did this leave me?  Well, I lost my fear of death pretty early.  In fact, I had beautiful dreams about dying sometimes.  I didn’t have a death wish, mind you.  If I had, I wouldn’t be here.  I just had seen death closely enough to stop fearing it, and to find beauty in aspects of it.

Everyone handles their impending death differently.  I had a number of occasions to put it to the test:  I would wake up aspirating a large amount of stomach acid, and from then on, I would be taken to the hospital, knowing that from the moment I woke up choking on bile that this could be the aspiration pneumonia that would kill me.  I was rapidly too exhausted to put my affairs in order, or to do much in the fight against that pneumonia other than let doctors treat me, so I’d resign myself to uncertainty.  This happened over and over again.

I’ve heard people talk about how they’d feel bad if they were dying and had never traveled the world like they always want to.  But when I was faced by “My life could be over within hours or days,” that was not the kind of thing I regretted.  In fact, I could barely give a shit what I’d done in those regards.  But I was very preoccupied with who I’d been.  Had I been a person who acted from love to the best of my ability?  Had I been a moral person?  That was the kind of question that made me nervous.  I wasn’t sure I measured up to who I should have been.  I wasn’t sure I’d affected enough people’s lives for the better.  I’d resolve to do better if I got out of this.  With some success.  I’m far from perfect, but I think my focus and priorities have shifted.

But the reason I’m telling this story is because I feel like how we deal with our own personal mortality mirrors how we deal with the mortality of our entire species.  We are facing the very real prospect that either humans won’t survive a lot longer, or not many of us will survive much longer.

One response I hear a lot is, “We’re doomed anyway, so why does it matter what I do?”

And some people do respond to their own personal death in that way.  They start caring only about their own pleasure and stop giving a shit how they affect other people.

But the thing I discovered around my own death is — my end is not the end.  That’s an understandable but self-centered way of looking at life.  I’m not talking about life after death.  I have some guesses about that, but they can only ever be guesses until I experience it.  I’m talking about the fact that even if I am no longer in the world (whether death is the end for me, personally, or not), other people still will be.

I was going to die, but the rest of the world wasn’t, at least not right then.  And dying may have meant I needed to conserve my energy in ways that made it harder to do certain things, or any obvious thing, for other people.  But it didn’t mean I had lost the obligation to behave like a decent human being when it was possible to do so.  If anything, that obligation seemed more important than ever the closer I got to death.  If my life was going to mean anything, it was going to mean that I’d tried hard to do my best by other people, whether in big ways or small.

And this has really changed things for me.  I haven’t become some kind of saint.  I’m still saddled with the same confusion and self-centeredness that seems to plague human beings in general, but I make my best effort with what I’ve got.  Which is all any of us can do.

And I see a strong parallel here with the way people respond to the thought of human extinction.  “We’re screwed anyway, so might as well enjoy ourselves before we go out and forget about what we’re doing to the environment.”  It might seem like the end of our species should mean we’re let off the hook, even if our own personal death doesn’t.  After all, not only is any one individual person not going to be around, no other human being will be around either.  There’s a lot of problems with this, though.

I’m going to start from the idea that total human extinction is soon and inevitable.  Which it isn’t.  Yet.  But just saying it was.

We still have a responsibility to each other in the meantime.  The reality is that nobody gets out of life alive.  And yet most of us care about how we live in the time we’re still here.  Treating each other decently is part of that.  Because until we’re not here, we are here.  And while we are here, how we treat each other matters.  We can’t just throw everything to the winds and do whatever we feel like.  For one, that’s actually a recipe for misery and unsatisfaction, even if it doesn’t seem like one.  But also, it screws over everyone else we’re sharing the planet with in the meantime.  And if screwing people over is bad even though each person you screw over will one day, individually, be dead, that isn’t actually changed by the entire species being dead.

There’s also this slide of inevitability that keeps us passive.  One bad thing follows from the next bad thing follows from the next bad thing.  We haven’t stopped it, so we won’t likely stop it, so let the next bad thing continue and go about our lives.

But the thing is.  Again, even if it’s true we’re all universally doomed as a species (which it isn’t — yet).  It doesn’t mean that we have to kill as many of us off as soon as humanly possible.  Let’s say we knew that no matter what we did, nobody would be alive in 150 years.  Would that make it okay to make a decision to just continue escalating things until  it’s 75 years, and a huge bunch of people would die younger, and harder, and another huge bunch would never be born?  Killing us off as soon as humanly possible because you didn’t think it would affect you personally whether it’s 75 years or 150 years because ou won’t be here is the kind of mentality that got us into this.  If you don’t like it as things are now, how do you think your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will feel when they discover you could’ve at least ensured they’d grow up?  How do you think the last people to die will feel when they know they could’ve had more time, could’ve faced a less extreme end?

But also, equally important when talking about human extinction is that humans are not and never have been the only life on the planet, or the only ones that matter.  Very powerful people thinking humans are the only ones that matter, and only some humans at that, is a big part of what’s killing us.  If we all die off, it still matters how many species we take out with us.  It matters what we leave for the species most likely to survive us.  We can’t just sit here and pull down the roof over our heads.  That’d be like me deciding I’m dying anyway so I might as well blow up the whole hospital or something, who cares about everyone else there and what they might want.  There has been life for far longer than humans have been around, and life will doubtless outlast us.  Animals, plants, fungus, microscopic life of all kinds, all of these things deserve a chance.  Failing to give them the best chance possible is like nuking your entire city because you’ll be dead from cancer tomorrow anyway.   It’s selfish, destructive, and irresponsible.

So no matter what’s ahead — for you or for all of us — try like hell to contribute, to make the world better for other people, to stop terrible things from becoming even more terrible.  Nothing gets us out of that obligation, ever.  Sometimes we can do big things, sometimes we can do small things.  But always try to find what you can do to the best effect, and do something.  Hope isn’t always about knowing you won’t die right then.  Hope is sometimes about knowing you could die, even knowing you will die, and doing the right thing anyway, because it’s still the right thing to do.

[This post was written recently.  I kept it as a draft and planned to edit it.  But I’m posting as-is.]


Stop the Shocks: Torture in Massachusetts

Stop the Shocks: Torture in Massachusetts

Click for full article by Cal Montgomery on stopping skin shock as torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center, an institution in Massachusetts. Spread this around.

Excerpt below:

2 years after the McCollins trial, the FDA took testimony on the practice of contingent electric shock as a way of controlling disabled people. Advocate after advocate urged them to ban the discredited and abusive practice, pointing to the fact that the United Nations regards the practice as torture. And the FDA seemed to be listening. In 2016, it was reported that the regulations needed to stop JRC from doing this to people had been drafted.

And then … nothing. The Obama administration declined to stop this. The Trump administration has so far refused to stop it as well.

Today disabled advocates and their supporters are continuing to demand that the FDA release the regulations, ban what happened to Andre McCollins, and move toward a world in which people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who need supportive services are able to access services that they themselves find supportive and that promote their ability to live the kinds of lives they want for themselves.

The FDA can be contacted by telephone at 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).

Posted in Being human

We’re Worth More Than This

Today is Disability Day of Mourning.  A day for mourning disabled people who get murdered, usually by family or caregivers.

And I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to convey what it means to know how much our lives are really worth, at the same time as knowing how little other people think they’re worth.

I don’t know how to convey what it means to have people try to kill you, try to ‘let you die’, try to convince you your life isn’t worth living, try to convince you you’re selfish for being alive and wanting to stay alive, and the whole idea that we’re just dumps for wasted resources.

I don’t know how to convey what it’s like to know that your life and the life of everyone like you is being held hostage in exchange for services.  Because that’s what it means when people loudly proclaim that lack of services are the reason for us getting murdered.

I don’t know how to convey what it means to lose people, over and over again, to know that it keeps on happening.  What it means to know that some of the most prolific serial killers in history have deliberately targeted disabled people because they knew they could get away with it more easily.

Every single one of us is worth more than that.  Every.  Single.  One.

There’s a memorial site here: Disability Day of Mourning

This is an older memorial site that Joelle Smith and I put together eons ago:  Murder of Autistics (archived)

I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to say it.  This memorial, it doesn’t even begin to cover the sheer number of lives lost:  Usually it doesn’t make the news, often it’s assumed to be something else, often our deaths are treated as inevitable.   The idea that it’s a hate crime isn’t even discussed.  I’m too tired of it to explain anymore.  We’re worth more than this.  That’s all.