Posted in Being human, Californication, culture, family, history, medical

Every part of your life makes your perspective vital to the world.

We all come to the world from a particular place. Each of us it’s a little different. Sometimes a lot different. Some of it is culture. Some of it is background and life experiences. Some of it is our families. Some of it is the way our body works. Some of it is location. There are so many things that influence our perspective on the world.

But we all have one particular perspective. And that perspective is important. Without many perspectives on the world, the world would be in a lot of trouble. We need people from different backgrounds, different thought patterns, lots of different things.

But every part of your perspective, everything that makes it up, is important. And that includes the things that seem to contradict each other. And all the things you’re ashamed of. Or afraid of. Or all the little details that seem to make things a little more complicated. Those things are all important to who you are, where you come from in the world, and what makes your perspective important.

I’ve talked before about being an Okie. I may have even talked about how ashamed I was and afraid I was for a long time of recognizing I was an Okie. There were a lot of reasons for this. But I could not understand myself, or my culture, or the things that made me different from my neighbors where I grew up.  Not without understanding both that I was an Okie and what an Okie is. And the history behind Okies in California.

Mel wearing an orange t-shirt that says "California Okie" with a picture of a redwood tree and a map of Oklahoma.
Mel wearing an orange t-shirt that says “California Okie” with a picture of a redwood tree and a map of Oklahoma.

But it goes beyond just being an Okie. There are tons of specifics to it. There is how long most of my family was in Oklahoma and the surrounding area before coming to California. There is why each specific part of my family came to California. There is when they came to California. There is what opportunities were open to them and not open to them compared to other Okies. There is what states they came from both originally and before they came to California. There is who stayed behind, who came to California, and who went back. And why. There is the specific ethnicities of different parts of my family.

There is also the fact that we left that San Joaquin Valley and ended up in Silicon Valley. There is the fact that my father was a very specific kind of person who existed in Silicon Valley, even though their presence was rarely acknowledged. Which is he was an Okie techie. There were Okies who left what were usually farm jobs and made it into some part of the Silicon Valley tech industry.

In my father’s case, that meant he was an electronics technician. He, like many Okie techies, came from a small farming or farm working background. He grew up tinkering with electronics in the attic of his farm. His high school in Kern County had an excellent program. Every year, they built a house. The carpentry class would build it. And the electronics class, which my father was in, would wire it. And so on. They would sell it as cheap as they could to a family who needed a home, and use the money for next year’s house. My father got practical experience with electronics while still in high school.

He went to a two-year college and got a degree that allowed him to be an electronics technician. But like many Okie techies, most of what he learned in the world came from practical experience of some kind.  His on-the-job experience gave him enough knowledge that he could do the work of an engineer without the schooling.  He even trained engineering grad students.

This all meant that I was born in San Mateo County in the redwoods. Because this was very close to the physics research facility where my dad had a job when I was born. And it meant when we left the redwoods I grew up in Silicon Valley, mostly San Jose. I have also lived in the San Joaquin Valley, Santa Cruz County, Santa Barbara County, and other places. But that’s the basic area I was in.

And that means that while my culture was Okie, this was not the culture I was surrounded by. And I was exposed to a lot of things that most Okies would not believe in. Like all the stuff I call California dreaming. A large, destructive part of California’s culture where a lot of people try to live in a dream world. It’s most famous I guess as a Hollywood thing. Because it’s easy to see that Hollywood is based on a lot of people’s dreams about the world. But it’s around a lot of mainstream Californian culture. There’s a whole branch of the Silicon Valley tech industry where people  live with their head in the clouds and don’t seem to have any idea that there is a basic physical world they have to live in. There are also the new agers who think you can wish physical reality into existence using only your mind.

And so I was exposed to all these ideas, even though within my family they got very short shrift. Because like anyone who’s done farm work pretty much knows that you depend on the physical world and you cannot wish it away. And any Okie with any sense remembers the dustbowl and how you could not wish or dream that mess away, and how people created that mess by ignoring the realities of their physical environment. So my cultural influences push me very far away from the sort of thinking that gives us dream worlds, and thinking the Singularity will save us or kill us or whatever, and things like The Secret and the Law Of Attraction. Which are a lot more connected within Californian culture than you would expect.

But exposure to those ideas while young led me to try them out. And I tried them out in a pretty spectacular way. And I never could shake a pretty iron sense of the real physical world, even though I did my best to pretend. And part of that is my cultural background kicking in. But I heard if you pretend something it’ll happen, so I tried my best to pretend reality didn’t exist. But I couldn’t pretend to myself at all. So these were these two influences fighting in my head. What I heard around me and what I kinda knew in my bones.

My exposure to those conflicting cultural values shapes my understanding of the world. If I had only been exposed to one or the other, or if I had come from a different direction, my perspective would be extremely different. And I do think my perspective on this gives me insight into things that are important.

There’s also the specifics of my family, like my personal specific family history. Three of my grandparents were Okies, the other was the daughter of Swedish immigrants. My mom’s family tended to be FDR Democrats, my father’s family were Republicans. Both of my parents had political and religious disagreements with their parents. There were frictions in the family over politics and religion. There is the combination of political liberalism or leftism and a sort of cultural conservatism or traditionalism that’s pretty hard to nail down in words, but that definitely exists in my family and in me. There’s a lot more diversity among Okies in this regard than you will ever hear. And these things factor into everything as well.

But all that, all those influences, all those oddly specific things about my personal, family, and cultural background. Those all and far more things that I could not get into, contribute to what my particular perspective is and what I have to offer based on that perspective. Even my weird little personal aversions to being an Okie, my attempts to hide from being an Okie, my attempts to become something I’m not, my final understanding that regardless of anything I am an Okie. All those things, all those twists and turns, are important to who I am.

It is all of these extremely specific things that are specific to each person that are very important in so many ways. And culture is just one part of what I am describing.

Like you can go into anything. And all the specifics matter.

Another example:  I have a severe kind of inertia. So severe that in the medical world it’s been diagnosed as a form of catatonia since I was a teenager. First just as a description and later as an actual diagnosis. Severe enough that sometimes I need help with physical movement through physical prompting. But also not always that severe, fluctuating a lot throughout my lifetime. And fluctuating a lot based on a lot of things. And something that started out not as severe and became more severe over time.

That means that I intuitively understand a lot of the mechanics of how prompting works and does not work. I intuitively understand the vulnerabilities created by inertia.  These vulnerabilities are not well-understood by most professionals or family. I understand how things can go right, and how things can go wrong. This is true of many of us who have this kind of inertia.

Some people have never consistently done a voluntary unprompted movement.  Unlike them, I have had a degree of privacy to develop certain abilities. When I was a certain age, I was able to go on the computer, in a room by myself, and dial in to BBSs.

A BBS, or Bulletin Board System, was a computer system or network that you dialed into using a modem. At its simplest, it would have message boards where people can leave messages for each other. Kind of like if you’ve ever used a web board for some topic or another. It could also have email, whether within the BBS or with an Internet feed. Sometimes it would have Usenet which was again kind of like a web board in its way. Sometimes it would have what we now call chat rooms. Sometimes it would just have the ability to chat with the sysop, or systems operator, who is the owner of the BBS. Sometimes it would even have Internet relay chat. But not all BBSs connected to the Internet. Many were one computer.  Some had their own small networks like NirvanaNet. Which I used a lot.

But my time on BBSs was a time when I could type anything into a computer screen, and watch whatever reaction I got back. At that age, anything I said or typed had a lot of echo to it. So it was not necessarily reflective of what I was thinking. Sometimes it was. But that was not consistent for me. It was formative to privately and anonymously type words into a screen and get words back. Even if the fruits of that experience were in no way immediately obvious.  My communication skills would never have been the same without that.

And there are people who have a lot of inertia. Who have the same awareness I have of how it works and does not work. But who because of either their life circumstances, or their degree and type of inertia, have never had that formative experience of typing with nobody seeing what you’re typing. Or speaking without anyone hearing what you are speaking. And as minor as that might sound to someone who doesn’t know what that means, it fundamentally and hugely affects many things about how you communicate and even what you can communicate.

It also affects what you can safely communicate about. Because if you are dependent completely on other people for your communication, there are things that have consequences if you say them. And some of those consequences may be having your communication taken away forever.

But even aside from the risks, the lack of the experience of ever having communication privacy has an enormous effect on a huge amount of things. For me, having the ability to at least some of the time, and for me it’s most of the time, communicate or even just use words in private means there’s a lot of things I am able to say. Including a lot of things about the mechanics of inertia. And the mechanics of prompting. And the inherent dangers of prompting that cannot ever be erased.

And talking about those dangers is hard for people who depend on physical prompting to communicate. Some people do it, some people try. But they can’t always manage it. And when they do manage it, they may face very severe consequences.

So there are these dangers built deeply into any way of helping someone overcome inertia. And I can’t get into all of what they are right now. I’m not always actually that good at describing the exact nature of them. But I am able to say they are there. I am able to say that they can’t go away.

I am able to say that they are different from, vastly different from, the dangers that most people are aware of. I am able to say they operate in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with the fucking ideomotor effect. That human beings are not Ouija boards. That the fact that this takes place does not mean communication does not take place. But also the people who create, develop, and promote the many different forms of assisted typing do not understand this either. I don’t think some of them want to understand it. But others they just can’t understand if they’re not aware of what the actual problems are. And of course because of the stakes, there’s a lot of pressure to not even acknowledge there is a problem. Or to oversimplify the problem.

And the problem is someone like me is in a position to know and understand the dangers very well, and to be able to say hey there are dangers here. And that is so specific to my position in the world. Like my exact experiences with inertia. My exact experiences with prompting and assisted typing. My exact fluctuations in abilities. My exact background in this entire area, my entire personal history, the ability I had to experiment with language in private for years without anyone knowing who I was and what I was saying and why I was saying it.

And I’m also in a position to understand that even saying there are dangers carries dangers for those who rely on assisted typing of one kind or another. I know that anything I say can be used as ammunition to try and shut down attempts to allow people to communicate. And I take that very seriously, so if that’s your position on this is that all assisted typing is nonsense, I can tell you that is wrong. And I know exactly why it is wrong. Because I have used it.

So I exist in this borderland that is an extremely useful borderland to exist in. And all the twists and turns, all the little details, give me a perspective that is important to the world. I know other people with this particular perspective. Just as I know other people of my basic cultural and family background, both general and weirdly specific.

I’m not saying that I’m uniquely important in my perspective. We all have, each one of us, because of all the specifics of everything about us, an important perspective. We need every perspective we have. Even, or maybe especially, where our perspectives contradict each other or disagree. It doesn’t mean every single one of us is right. But every single one of us has something important to give to the world in terms of how we see the world and how we react to it. And when we try to hard to force everyone into the same perspective, we lose that.

Even weird things matter. Like being seen as high IQ and being seen as low IQ, both officially. Having gone from an early entry college to special education high school in that order. All of these things create understandings of the world that each of us has. Each of us has weird little specifics in our life that all matter.

Often it’s the things we don’t want to know about ourselves, or don’t want to think about, that are important. It’s the things we’re ashamed of. It’s the things people give us crap for. It’s the things we’re afraid of. It’s the things that aren’t even true, but other people’s belief in them has changed our lives.

Painful as some of these things are to think about, the more we understand them, the more we accept that all these things are a part of us, the better equipped we are to understand where we’re coming from. The more you understand the perspective you’re coming from, the more you can contribute from that perspective. It lets you know your exact place in the world and that is a very powerful thing to know. It gives you choices. It gives you understanding. It gives you insights that you would not otherwise have. It gives you more of an in-depth comprehension of both the strengths and limitations of your particular point of view.  It makes you understand your place within human diversity, and the importance of that diversity in all its forms.  It makes you understand why and how it is that diversity can never be neatly summed up.  It lets you know how you can use all of this.

So I’ve used a lot of examples of my own life here. But that’s to illustrate something that applies to every single person on this planet. Our culture matters. Our background matters. Our family matters. Our life experiences matter. Our physical body’s makeup matters. Everything about us contributes to this. And the less we can hide from the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to see, and the things about this that are so painful we don’t want to look at them, the more powerful we can be. And the more powerful our perspectives and our use of those perspectives can be.

So I guess the short version of this is:  Know thyself. But know thyself in detail. Know thyself fearlessly or at least courageously. Know all parts of thyself. Know the parts of thyself you would rather not know. Know the parts of thyself that you are proud of, that you’re ashamed of, that you’re indifferent to, that you are afraid of, all of them. Know how they all fit together. Know the parts of thyself that seem like contradictions and like they throw everything else about you into question. If something scares or repulses you, look twice, and look harder, and overcome the fear enough to see whatever is really there. I guarantee it’s important.

This is not navel gazing. This is how to understand where you fit in the world, where your perspectives come from, what contributions this makes you capable of or even obligated to, and what you can do about it. And it will go on your whole life. But the more you understand, the more power you have to do something good in the world.

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Posted in family, history

America’s Atomic Veterans

Black and white photo of mushroom cloud in the distance with a number of men sitting on the ground in the desert, watching. Cacti are visible in between the men and the mushrom cloud.
Atomic bomb test in Yucca Flat, Nevada, April 22, 1952.

I was raised on stories of atomic bomb tests, witnessed from afar.  My father’s family were California Okies who lived and worked on a series of farms all over Kern County and Tulare County, California.  My father told childhood stories of seeing flashes on the other side of the Sierras, then watching the shock wave roll towards them.  The shock waves were often strong enough to  knock you out of bed, or knock water out of the irrigation canals.

I didn’t know this story, though, until my father wrote his memoirs in his late sixties or early seventies.  He was born in 1941, and this seems to take place in 1952:

One afternoon, I came home from school and there was a strange man in the living room talking to Dad and Mom.  He was one of Dad’s cousins and was home on leave from the Army.  I sat and listened with wide eyes as he described his participation in the atomic bomb tests in Nevada.  He along with many other soldiers had sat in a trench one mile from ground zero.  They had dark goggles and ear protection that was their only special equipment.  The bomb sat on a tall tower.  They were told not to look at the tower or to raise their heads above the edge of the trench.  Wen the bomb went off, Dad’s cousin saw a blinding flash, and was thrown backwards against the trench wall.  He said that the blast was deafening and that a sheet of hot sand whistled over his head.  We talked for a while and then he left.  I never saw him again.  Six years later, in 1958, I heard that he had died of leukemia.

-Ronald Baggs

That’d be my first cousin, twice removed.  (I had to look that up.)  Family history meets just plain history.

The American military carried out these bomb tests regularly, and often they tested the effects on American citizens.  Quite often, these were low-ranking military personnel who were not told what they were getting into and given no radiation protection.  This is besides the effects of fallout on civilians, which was a huge problem in Nevada, surounding areas, and anywhere else weather patterns happened to take it.  And testing on unwitting civilians, which happened as well.  And the civilians in the Pacific Islands who because of all kinds of racist and colonialist crap were even more disregarded by America and France and other places that nuked the crap out of the region than most people I just talked about.

The Only Country that Ever Nuked America Was America.

Sometimes, they even had their test subjects stand up and walk towards Ground Zero after the bomb went off.

Many people, like my grandpa’s cousin, didn’t survive long.

But many people did.  And many of them — and their children — had a lot of health problems that continue to this day, especially cancer.  They were sworn to secrecy (sometimes under penalty of treason), but many began breaking that silence in order to protest lack of compensation or apology for being made into human guinea pigs for nuclear weapons.

Today, they’re known as atomic veterans.  But most people don’t know, or only know in passing, that this happened, and what happened to them and their families.  The following Retro Report video is a good overview with lots of interviews with atomic vets and their families:

It makes the point that while nuclear testing officially stopped, there are still atomic vets from after that era:  People who were sent in to clean up earlier test sites.

This post may be late for Memorial Day, but on Memorial Day I always remember people like my grandfather’s cousin, completely forgotten casualties of the Cold War, killed by their own superiors in the military. They’re rarely given the recognition for this that they would be had they died in other military contexts.

Here’s a video shot by a guy whose dad died after being subjected to atomic testing in the Marines:

And he makes the also-good point that this is not a partisan issue, it’s a matter of basic respect.

So that’s what Memorial Day has had me thinking of.   I have lots of vets both living and dead in the family, but the only one I know of who died because of something that happened during his service was used as a lab rat in Nevada without being told.  My grandfather on the other side got a Purple Heart for a relatively minor injury in the Pacific Theater of World War II, but my other grandpa’s cousin got no recognition to my knowledge even though he died from the effects of the radiation.

Apparently they were usually sworn to secrecy under threat of treason charges, but he had no trouble telling family.  I imagine that was common.

They’re still fighting for recognition and compensation, to my knowledge.  The unfortunate joke among atomic vets — probably quite real — is that the government’s just waiting until most of them die.

And most people don’t even know they exist.

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.