Fiction Excerpt: The Reasons Why

I rarely ever post any fiction, even though that’s primarily what I write. Posting fiction is far more terrifying to me than posting an essay or my thoughts on wealth disparity in the 21st century. Much like Steve Rogers, I’m always honest, but there’s the tactful honesty by which I live my life, and then there’s fiction writing, which is exposing my imagination–the only part of myself that no one can take away from me. But I promised myself I would do this, because I certainly don’t agonize over words and made-up people for my health, so here is an excerpt from an old version of a piece of forever unpublished fiction. I don’t think context is required, but it’s set in England, c. 2010.

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I needed another perspective, so later that day, I called Caroline.

“Colin asked me if I had ever been in therapy.”

“That’s random.”

“Yeah, he said it was for a school project, and he assumed I had been in therapy. Is it weirder that he assumed I had, or weirder that I haven’t?”

“I think it’d be pretty normal to see a therapist after someone in your family tries to, you know.”

“I think we all sort of managed to cope on our own,” I said, the words ringing hollow. I didn’t want to say what I was really thinking, that even though dad had been devastated, and Rhi, Jack, and I had been some combination of bereft, angry, and guilty, none of us were ultimately surprised that mum tried to kill herself.

“Well, sometimes you don’t realize how much you were affected by something until years later. I’m just saying, even now, it wouldn’t be weird if you wanted to see a therapist.”

“And it’s not weird that I haven’t?”

“You’ve always seemed totally normal to me. Your family’s never seemed as weird as you make them out to be.”

Maybe we weren’t weird, or any weirder than any other family, but the idea didn’t leave me—the idea that maybe we all assumed mum would end her own life, a matter of when and not if. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, but I went for a walk after I hung up with Caroline and wound up near a bookshop just as the afternoon rain shower started. I ducked into the shop initially for cover from the rain, but I wound up leaving with another of mum’s books.

This one was about the history of polo, titled Riding Off. The cover of the book had a polo scene on it, but the players weren’t in normal polo costume. They were carrying polo sticks and the whole thing was in sepia tones to give off the impression of vintage. I bet mum hated the cover.

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Way Down to the Very Bottom of Everything

This has nothing to do with the post. Looking at the ocean just makes me feel better. Photo by me.

This has nothing to do with the post. Looking at the ocean just makes me feel better. Photo by me.

I do this every year. I indulge in the game of time and I reflect on the previous 365 (or 366) days. I don’t think a new year is something to celebrate. For me, it’s a time to reflect.

2016 has been being called a terrible year by many people in my circles—a lot of death, a lot of loss in other forms, what seems like an increase in violence and destruction in the world, a baffling presidential election in my country.

In darker moments, I fear what is to come. I spend too much time thinking about the consequences of capitalism, about war, about bias, about how often it seems people misperceive the shared world around them. I tend to use my intellectual fascination with the ugly aspects of humanity to shield myself in numbness, but in my bleaker moments, I feel that fear and frustration deep down in the pit of my stomach. I fear I’m running out of time.

I wonder sometimes if I live in the same world as other people. I wonder if it’s not the condition of alienation that comes with capitalism, with being defined as a woman, with being a philosophical thinker, but something else. Something active, sinister. I’ve been ignored and silenced and not taken seriously for most of my life, partly by my own doing, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Sometimes screaming into the void is all I can do.

But it doesn’t help. So I feel like I’ve started to disappear.

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To Tell the Truth

“Post-truth.” “Post-fact.” “Fake news.”

These are terms I hear flying around lately, and I feel obligated to step in.

Talk to this guy about formal and objective reality.

Talk to this guy about formal and objective reality.

There are and have been philosophical debates on truth and reality for centuries.[1] Is truth only what is verifiable? Is it correspondence? Is it coherence? Is reality only the material reality through which the natural sciences are practiced? Is reality always already filtered through a subjective, phenomenological perspective?

Truth and reality are messy concepts, because truth and reality are created, defined, and evaluated by human-made standards.

Truth isn’t one thing. The truth of an event isn’t “what actually happened,” because when anything happens to a person that particular experience is happening to someone with a perspective. And with any perspective comes bias. Bias from actual limitations of human sensing, pattern recognition, and comprehension, but also bias from socialized beliefs and bias from a personal agenda, all of it.

You are biased.

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You Don’t Like Hillary Clinton Because She’s A Woman

via ABCNews, Getty image

I love this photo. (via ABCNews, Getty image)

For weeks, I’ve been trying to write something about the latent sexism that I hear in nearly every negative claim made about Hillary Clinton. The problem is that I don’t have a knockout argument, and I fear this is the case because sexism is so deeply ingrained in us we can’t see it. We subconsciously don’t want to believe that women can be good leaders.

But I have to try, because I don’t see enough people talking about this (though if you search you can find some op-eds).

As a disclaimer, I’m not arguing that you should vote for Hillary Clinton, I’m trying to show you that institutional sexism is affecting your perception of her.

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via American New X

There’s even a chart! (via American New X)

I read an article yesterday, which explained very clearly (with data and facts!) that Hillary Clinton is generally honest. She is one of the most honest politicians that PolitiFact.com tracks. I think this author’s assessment was probably right, that people fixate on her few untrue assertions: “It seems that people want Clinton to be a liar, and really don’t care that Trump actually is one.”

Using her email scandal against her is beating a dead horse at this point. Her biggest opponent in the primaries was sick of her damn emails back in October of last year. The director of the FBI said it would be unreasonable to press charges. If you’ve ever worked for the government and/or had a government phone, you might think this scandal is ridiculous for the same reasons I do. (I suspect that Clinton wasn’t trying to hide information, but, rather, trying to use her phone[s] in a way that was actually convenient and efficient–the government’s protocols are not.)

Not to mention, in an era of Wikileaks and Panama Papers and an OPM data breach that compromised personal information of an estimated 21.5 million people, do you really believe that cybersecurity is possible? Really? And what do you think was in these classified emails? Do tell, because I love a conspiracy theory.

But as far as I can tell, this is the reason why a lot of people don’t trust Clinton.

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The System is Racist. Period.

I have a tendency to see the world in terms of the big picture on an extremely macro-level. To me, we absolutely cannot divorce anything we think or do from its socio-historical context, including science, including religion, and including beliefs that we tell ourselves are “personal.”

That said, I feel like I shouldn’t have to write this, but I’m angry. I’m angry at the system. I’m angry at all the white people I know who casually ignore systemic injustice. So, here goes.

Institutional or systemic racism is racism expressed and performed in social and political practices.

This is different from an individual or clearly defined social group (like the KKK) being racist.

Many white people seem to not be aware that systemic racism exists. Or they don’t care. Lack of awareness and lack of caring comes with privilege. Just because you don’t put on a white hood does not mean you don’t participate in racist practices. That’s what systemic racism means.

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How A Plot Hole in “Captain America: Civil War” Inadvertently Critiqued the UN

Disclaimer: There are spoilers of Captain America: Civil War in what follows. I also realize I’m being a huge nerd about this, and it is necessary to suspend belief to watch superhero movies. Also, I’m a philosopher, not a political scientist, so my understanding of U.N. procedures is rudimentary.

Credit: Hypable.com

The fictional UN session in Vienna gone awry.

It was curious to me that in Captain America: Civil War the writers decided to use an existing organization–the United Nations–instead of continuing to use fictional groups like the World Security Council, S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.

As I understand it, the purpose of the UN is to do things like mediate and maintain world peace, promote human rights, and protect the environment. So, ideally they are in the business of promoting humanitarianism.

The UN isn’t the world police, and there’s no such thing as a world army. The UN Security Council can use armed coalition forces to maintain peace and security, but those forces are voluntarily provided by nation-states (and the UN can’t force a nation to send troops). The UN also has an International Court of Justice, but it only looks at cases brought about by nation-states against other nation-states (and it doesn’t even really have jurisdiction over them).

So, to have a UN panel that would determine when a group of superheroes would–what? be used as a “peacekeepers”?–is dubious to begin with.

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Is there no place for them today?

Why do people do such horrible things to each other? When will people stop fighting? When will the threat of terrorism no longer exist?

I see the laments every time a terrorist attack happens in a Western nation, and my own response is–why are these the questions we ask?

What follows isn’t criticism, it isn’t an argument, it’s just a reflection. It’s just another way to ask why.

(Would love to credit this properly.)

(Would love to credit this properly.)

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