On Knowing

I’m no longer a huge fan of making a distinction between thinking and feeling. That’s a change for me. It’s not been a very long time since I considered–like I think we’re all socialised to–rational thought as some higher, purer mode of thinking, and emotional thought as a kind of untrustable reactionary force.

Emotions, in other words, were something that got in the way of thought.

But that’s clearly not the case. It’s certainly not how our brains work. If it were the case, that brand of clear-headed, rational thought would tend more toward some kind of truth. At least in theory.

Of course, it doesn’t. Unless you’re very, very invested in doing ruminative metacognition (that is to say, if you want to think about how you think a lot), you’re probably finding and making arguments that reinforce your preexisting commitments.

To put it another way, your rational thought is a collection of stories you tell to confirm the beliefs you already feel good about.

This is why, to give just one example, it’s so hard to argue committed antivaxxers or flatearthers out of their (obviously, to you) insane positions. They seek arguments as much as you do. They seek arguments that confirm their preconceptions, as much as you do. Their arguments feel true to them, just like your arguments feel true to you.

That’s not to say there isn’t a sort of formal logic that tends toward truth. There is. It’s just that almost nobody uses it. It’s too much work. And I don’t mean that in the traditional Puritan mode of “too much work”; you’re not lazy because you don’t spend all day engaging in formally proving all your positions. You can’t. Your brain just doesn’t work that way. It works on shortcuts and heuristics, because the amount of data it receives is massive, but its processing power, though immense, is not unlimited.

And, because your brain exists to help you survive. If you wish to survive a tiger springing out of the bush, to trot out a particularly threadbare example, you survive by reacting, not by formally proving that there is, indeed, a tiger. The heuristic is to assume there is a tiger and act accordingly.

The stakes are not always so high in our day-to-day, but we just tend to operate that way regardless.

Not to mention that we are creatures of memory. Our perceptions, our conclusions, all our thought that we care to hang on to, is recorded and saved for later. But not perfectly. We remember memories of memories. Memories can be twisted, manufactured, corrupted, and completely forgotten in that process.

Take something that you know. Something simple, something foundational, something we all learn very early in school:

1 + 1 = 2

Is this true? Of course. But here’s thing thing: How do you know? Have you ever proved it? Do you have access to that proof right now?

Of course not. This is an axiomatic mathematical expression. You can prove it, reasonably well, with some sticks or something (or, if you’re brave, from formal logic alone, though it will apparently take about 100 pages of proof to do so).

But you don’t do this. Unless you’re teaching it to someone who doesn’t know it, you’ll probably never do it.

And yet you are supremely confident that this claim is true. You realise, on some level, that if it isn’t true, your entire mental construction of the universe needs to be done. You’ve lived your life thus far labouring under the pretence that it’s true, and things have turned out fine so far.

When you access a truth claim, even a simple, axiomatic truth claim, you don’t have access to the truth of that claim in the moment, or even access to whether or not that truth claim is warranted. Instead, you’re accessing a memory of your own confidence about that truth claim. And what is confidence, in the end, but an emotion? You don’t know that 1 + 1 = 2. You feel that 1 + 1 = 2.

In this case, you’re correct. (Breathe a sigh of relief.) 1 plus 1 does indeed equal 2. But think about all the times you’ve had that same reaction of confidence in your opinion on something, or your confidence that something happened the way you remember it happening, or your confidence that that bit of knowledge you squirrelled away 20 years ago is still valid…

Confidence can absolutely be unwarranted. Memories are fragile. Things that seem axiomatic can be socialised conventions.

And knowing all of this doesn’t help you at all. You can do some metacognition stuff to inspect and attempt to correct your confidence, but this is the sort of ex post facto stuff that doesn’t really help you in the moment. It might help in some other moment. It’s also not guaranteed to make your life any easier; believing things that are capital-t True isn’t some secret shortcut to a fulfilling existence. Some True things are incredibly bothersome, even agonizing.

Anyways. You should interrogate your rationality the same way you interrogate your emotions. You don’t get to throw one away and keep the other. Thinking is thinking.

Bullet points for a Monday lunch hour

  • This is going to be short; I’m busy.
  • The tragedy of the commons is a terrible critique of socialism. It is, however, a fantastic critique of capitalism.
  • The western church, especially in America, and especially the evangelical church, could preach against white supremacy, but doesn’t. It could work to root out this idolatry within its midst, but doesn’t. I don’t think there’s “a reason” for this, but instead a few:
    • Because the evangelical church has been coopted by conservative ideology, there’s a feeling like-sees-like with white supremacists. This triggers a coalition-building impulse because they’re on “our side”, and this perception of allyship is a stronger signal (to conservatives) than the gospel.
    • The false perception that evangelicals are somehow a persecuted group also drives this; you find allies wherever you can when you feel under attack.
    • The white evangelical church has close historic ties with white supremacy and is fairly unwilling to acknowledge that legacy, and absolutely unwilling to do anything about it. Instead, evangelical leaders do the opposite, picking bogeymen such as critical race theory, treating them (fairly transparently) as strawmen when they feel any pressure to actually do anything. It’s not a coincidence that the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination formed to safeguard the institution of slavery, is where a lot of anti-woke warriors come from.
    • And, frankly, rooting out idolatry is hard. Prophets get thrown down wells a lot. And the work of preaching should be exactly that: exercising the prophetic voice. Especially in places where we find it culturally uncomfortable.
    • Christian Nationalism sounds Christian but isn’t. And a lot of people don’t know the difference. But if you’re raised on, say, Pensacola Christian College materials and has a bit of a critical think about what you were being taught, it’s pretty easy to spot.
  • Sea shanties are in. Problem is there’s only about 1 good sea shanty.
  • I hope the cops who got mauled by the insurrectionist mob learn a bit of a lesson:
    • Your leadership doesn’t care about you. They’ll hang you out to dry for their own ideological purposes.
    • Blue Lives Matter folks don’t care about you. They only like cops when you’re on their side. If you’re not, they’ll kill you just as fast as they’ll kill anyone else.
    • White supremacist mobs are dangerous. If you knew anything about the history of white mobs, you’d know this. Just look at the history of terrorism in the US. (Hint: it’s mostly white men.)
  • Some notable blog posts:

Bullet Points, Saturday Morning Edition

  • Laura’s having a little sleep-in. The kids are watching TV and playing computer games. It’s cold outside. But it’s a good morning.
  • The last 4 years have been an inflection point for so, so many people I know. It feels like a trauma response, in a way. So many people are looking at their evangelical churches and thinking “I don’t fit in here anymore”, especially folks who can remember the Clinton years. I don’t think we can overestimate the damage to the witness and reputation of the evangelical church. We’re going to feel the ripples of this for years.
  • I failed my reading challenge for the year. I didn’t read anywhere close to the number of books I set out to read. The upside is I read way more books this year than I did last year, and some of the books I read were stellar. Some standouts:
    • Jesus And John Wayne – An absolutely astonishing exploration of “biblical manhood” in particular and evangelicalism in general.
    • Taking America Back For God – This might be one of the most important books I’ve ever read, tying together a lot of the loose ends of my youth as a fundamentalist. If you were schooled with A Beka materials (as I was), you need to read this. It explains a lot.
    • Dark Matter – Just a really great scifi novel.
    • Middlegame – Weird and delightful.
    • Uprooted – Good fantasy. Self-contained. No trilogy. Very different ending.
  • Bad coffee beans are a great reason to use some Bailey’s. Or even better, Forty Creek Cream.
  • I read an article (which I’ve lost, unfortunately) the other day that explored the connection between the ethos of evangelical Christianity and multi-level marketing companies (aka pyramid schemes). It pointed out that to engage in an MLM you need to be comfortable being extremely (and some might say annoyingly) evangelistic, using your friends and family to preach the gospel of whatever schlock you’re trying to get them to buy. It makes sense why evangelical moms get so wrapped up in these things: they already possess that skillset. You can take the comparison further, but that’s as far as I’ll go here.
  • Lockdown continues. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of our province’s lackluster response. I’m sick of the COVID enablers who continue to flout the rules. I’m sick of the antimaskers. I’m sick of vaccine deniers. I’m sick to death of all the people who think their opinion based on an Instagram post is somehow equivalent to the advice of a trained medical professional. I’m sick of people justifying their bad behaviour using the Bible. I’m sick of folks who say “don’t have a spirit of fear” when it comes to getting the disease but are afraid of getting the vaccine. I’m sick of the spirit of absolute selfishness these freeloaders have. I’m sick of the toxic individualism that riddles our nation. I’m just sick and tired and frustrated at all of this, of all these stupid fights about nothing with smoothbrains. It’s been a long, long year.
  • The kids are done with TV and computer games now, so I guess I gotta go, like, do stuff.

Stuff To Unlearn (Music Edition)

  • An artist writing their own songs is great. But that artist isn’t somehow more authentic or worthwhile than someone else who doesn’t.
  • A piece of music that stands the test of time hasn’t done anything except exist for a while. The test of time is no test at all.
  • Some music feels synthetic or manufactured. But all music is manufactured. Some music is manufactured to feel less manufactured than other music. Grunge is no less manufactured than hair metal. If it feels like it is, you’ve revealed your aesthetic preference.
  • There’s more to music than just Western music theory. It might be hard to see that sometimes, especially if you’re embedded in Western culture. I might say that the internet should allow you to more easily experience other cultures, but it also extends Western cultural hegemony, so maybe not.
  • Music isn’t harmony, it isn’t melody, it isn’t rhythm, it isn’t lyrics, it isn’t instruments. If a particular type of music is missing one of these things, it doesn’t make it less musical. If you feel like it does, you’ve revealed an aesthetic preference.
  • Aesthetic preferences are fine. But in the end they’re just preferences, a sort of lens that you use to look at music. Or, to put it another way, a perspective. That you have one perspective, or even that a whole bunch of folks share your preference, doesn’t make your perspective right, or normative, or inherently valuable.
  • You can’t tell what music ought to be by looking at what music is.

2021

It’s not 2020 anymore.

Yay?

2020 was a really long year, mostly, I think, because 2020 started in 2016. 2020 was just the icing on that (shitty) cake.

We still exist in a world where the forces acting on us are beyond our control. We feel like we’re more enlightened than our predecessors who worshiped the sun and the stars, but this is just chronological snobbery. We worship at more abstract altars, but they’re altars nonetheless.

How could you worship, say, a goddess of fertility whose willingness (or ability) to provide fecundity and abundance was so capricious? What’s the difference between coming to the altar and not, when the results seem the same?

And yet we worship at the altars of capitalism, conservatism, fundamentalism, trickle-down economics… and your can insert your favourite ideological whipping boy here.

When these ideologies become unshakeable cornerstones of our relationship with the world, when their effects can’t be questioned, when methods of critiquing them are reflexively stigmatized, how can we say we’re better than, say, the Romans?

We still exist in a world with massive and growing inequity, where the beneficiaries of this inequity are passively (and often actively) working to increase the gaps.

We exist in a world where justice is denied in the name of fairness and a level playing field. We will not acknowledge, much less correct, the sins of the past.

We exist in a world where the imaginations of so many are captive to the fantasies of conspiracy theories. We invent fictional antichrists to distract from the antichrists we have built and from which we benefit.

We have strong opinions on things we haven’t experienced or are completely ignorant, and we will not listen to those who have experience or expertise.

We have collapsed morality into opinion and then tried to fix that by making opinion fact.

2021 might bring some change. I hope so. But I’m fairly pessimistic. I’m think incrementalism is the right approach, but in the absence of any actual incremental change, we’re heading towards bayonets and guillotines.

Happy new year.

Notes on conspiracy theories

  • In general, if you’re into conspiracy theories, you think that the world is ordered and controlled. You think that those ordering and controlling the world are simultaneously intelligent and powerful enough to hide what they’re doing, but negligent enough that someone like you can suss it out.
  • You are probably vulnerable to fascist rhetoric.
  • Conspiracy theories are not an end to themselves. They are an immune system for something else.
  • Because they’re an immune system, attacking the theory won’t weaken your belief in it. You will broaden the theory to include the attack.
    • Take the idea of a “deep state”, the idea that all the forces of this unseen power are aligned against your politician. Every time someone opposes your politician, you toss them into the deep state bucket. You say something like “look how deep it goes”.
  • Your choice of conspiracy theory reveals something about what’s at the centre of what you consider “you”. It’s not always obvious what this is.
  • You need to be deprogrammed. You might drift out of the theory after a while, but you’re still primed to believe.
  • If you are raised in a culture or subculture where a fundamental tenet is a conspiracy theory, you are primed to believe more of them. This is disordered thinking, and requires deconstruction.
  • Conspiracy theories are incredibly prevalent on the internet for a bunch of reasons. The two big ones are:
    • Like finds like. The internet has enabled folks to gather together based on shared interests. Mostly, it’s mundane. People who like parrots in a group of folks who like parrots. However, all interest groups are vulnerable to extremism, since what is extremism but having a single axiom?
    • The web is a web. This one is a more of a medium-is-the-message sort of thing. The internet resembles a crazy board (one of those yarn-and-pushpin things you see when a movie is trying to tell you someone is crazy), structurally. This structure tempts you to think that stuff that links via hyperlinks is actually linked in some way. Browsing the web, looking up articles, seeing tweets, watching YouTube (they call this “research” in the conspiracy world) feels like putting pieces together. But this is of course an artifice of the web. Things aren’t connected because they’re, you know, connected.
  • Conspiracy theories are responsible for the Holocaust. There’s no real way around this one. Antisemitism is based on a conspiracy theory, based on scapegoating. And so very many conspiracy theories have explicitly antisemitic roots.
    • I shouldn’t have to say this: Antisemitism is wrong. It is evil. It is your duty to fight it wherever you find it.
  • And finally, if you’re into conspiracy theories, please seek help. Speak to a mental health professional. The world is a large, out of control place. There’s no one at the wheel. There’s no master plan. It’s too big and complicated to control. And you’re allowed to be scared by that without projecting it onto some shadowy cabal of baby-eating Hollywood whatever.

I’ve got all these here bullet points

  • I hate seeing it again and again. Someone drinks the MLM koolaid, goes all in, spends an enormous amount of time and money projecting success, then slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) figuring out they’re not making any money. Then they quit, and what do they have to show for their effort?
    • A bunch of crap nobody wants.
    • A network of pissed off friends and family.
    • Less money than when they started.
    • A sense of shame that they couldn’t make it.
  • I’m here to tell you it’s not your fault. You didn’t fail. You were set up. You were preyed upon by the upstream “team members”, who were in turn preyed upon themselves. They expected you to (grossly, indecently) prey upon your friends and family. All to probably not make a few bucks. The folks that make it are few and far between.
  • Sometimes they’ll have an Insta or a Twitter and you can see exactly when it starts and end, datestamps and all, if they don’t have the sense to delete it.
  • As always, look at the averages, and look at the upside potential. Not the exceptions.
  • It’s really hard to watch friends and family be really, really stupid about COVID, vaccines, conspiracy theories, all this stuff. It genuinely makes me sad. But it also makes me angry, especially how evangelistic they are. And also because the only reason they can be so publicly and mind-numbingly stupid is because other folks (like me!) take these things seriously and do the right thing. It’s Dunning-Kruger-by-proxy. Infuriating.
  • I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Antivax is a position of extreme privilege. The only reason your unvaccinated kids haven’t died of some easily preventable disease is that everyone else who did get the vaccines is protecting you. It’s classic “I got mine, screw you” logic, and the last thing you should expect to see from a committed Christian.
  • Once you start looking for it, you see this pattern everywhere. Female judges looking to dismantle feminism. Middle class folks voting to dismantle the welfare state and worker’s rights. Insert your own example here, it’s not hard to find one! It really chaps my muffins at how callous, individualistic, and myopic this is. You’re embedded in a social web, and that social web is made up of a lot of people, places, and things that affect you. You aren’t the author of your own destiny; you’re a bit player, and thinking that you as a business owner, parent, partner, what have you, can take the benefits without making the contributions is insane. If you want the roads, pay the taxes. If you want your health, seek the health of others as well. If you want your marriage to succeed, seek the success of your partner. If you don’t want to do that stuff, go live on an island somewhere all by yourself and see how that goes. You cannot be a part of a society without thinking about what you owe to that society. We cannot be a human without thinking about we owe to eachother. Individualism is dehumanizing. It is callous. It is mean. And it is, and I mean this, an antichrist.
  • Not only that, it spits in the face of the entire history of folks who fought to give you the rights, the privilege, the position you take for granted. Think about the mountains of corpses you stand on while you trumpet your ignorance.
  • Most “Christian masculinity” stuff is just tough guy cosplay. You’re not getting that stuff from the Bible; you’re getting it from the culture.
  • Nothing will get so-called Evangelicals on social media hotter under the collar than quoting the Bible to them. I think this is because late-stage Evangelicalism is fundamentally not about the Bible. It’s about preserving or recreating a vision of the past that most didn’t exist, especially for anyone on the margins.
  • The more I read about American history, the more I realise the stuff I was taught in A Beka homeschooling was fanfiction. All these institutions that were supposedly conceived in the crucible of whatever were actually either last minute kludges or massive compromises that everyone assumed someone would fix later.
  • Later is never.
  • I’ve watched all the Star Wars movies. None of them is any good. Maybe episode 4 is ok, but, like, on accident?
  • I was once recommended a podcast by a Christian woman, also a Fox News contributor, which I refused to listen to. I couldn’t really express why at the time, but I had this sense that that sort of thing wasn’t good for my spiritual health. Reading Taking America Back For God (an absolutely fantastic book; do read it) helped me understand why. When someone is paid by Fox News and co, my heuristic is that they are fundamentally not Christian as much as Christian Nationalist, which is a very different thing. I will not have the words of someone who worships a flag injected into my ears.
  • Pineapple on pizza is a Good Thing. If you don’t like it, that’s fine.
  • I’ve uninstalled Instagram. I’ve not enjoyed my time there for a while, but the latest UI changes are, in a word, hostile. You’re not supposed to treat me like a commodity; that’s too real. You’re not supposed to say the quiet part out loud.
  • I’m starting to think it might be fun to move to Holland.

It’s late, here’s some bullet points

  • I never cease to wonder at folks who believe in total depravity but refuse to critique systems created by these totally depraved humans. Like, we’re willing to sling crap at individuals for being some distorted version of the image of God, but we just can’t find it within ourselves to critique the ideas and systems those individuals collectively create? It’s such a weird correlation (and this is just my experience; feel free to disagree): The stronger a person holds to this doctrine, and the more concentrated a form they hold, the less likely they are to critique, say, capitalism. Which is just wild.
  • I’ve been listening to a podcast called You’re Wrong About, which is of course my favourite thing in the world right now, because I love being wrong about things. Their episode on how the current narrative around human trafficking is just Stranger Danger repackaged for the internet era is, I think, profound.
  • If there’s some parallel between my current thinking about people (as in, humans, and how they are) and the doctrine of total depravity, it’s that humans, and I generously include myself in this, aren’t good at recognizing what real danger is. We don’t understand preventative maintenance. We don’t (and maybe can’t) comprehend the complexity of our modern, interconnected, global existence. And we constantly want to boil down “the problem” to a Big Bad, like we’re in an episode of Buffy or something. But there’s almost never a Big Bad. No puppetmaster pulling the strings. Problems are amorphous, distributed, and seemingly disconnected from causes.
  • The term “conspiracy theory” was invented in the USA. Which, I mean, of course it was.
  • Everything you need to know about the current US president is John Mulaney’s “There’s A Horse Loose In The Hospital” bit. It’s the perfect analogy. It hasn’t become less true with age. More true in fact.
  • Audrey and I are playing a Minecraft survival world right now. Monster spawning turned off, of course, because she will literally jump out of her skin at a creeper and never jump back in again. Kids, man.
  • I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t trust people who don’t read. I’ve never met an uncritical, superficially informed, armchair expert who reads a lot. I’ve met plenty of folks who I disagree with, often quite strongly, who read. But I can at least respect them.
  • I really, really don’t trust people who get a lot of their ideas from YouTube. That site exists to monopolize your attention, not provide you with truth. It will take you as far down the rabbit hole as you want to go, as long as you keep watching.
  • It’s complicated. If you think it’s not complicated, you’re wrong. Except when you’re not, because, you know, it’s complicated.
  • Reading about how evangelicalism in the USA was welded onto the Republican party is shocking. It hasn’t always been this way, and if you look at how it happened, it feel like an actual conspiracy. It might just be a bunch of dudes getting lucky with their power grab, and I don’t like conspiracy theories, but this might actually be one of the real ones.
  • Evangelical Christianity in the USA is, at least partially, apostate. And in the same way that the Church has drifted into apostasy time and time again, the cooption of the Church by the state. Except that America has, as usual, approached the problem of how to be Christian and deny Christ with its usual innovative flair: The fusion of the America myth and Christianity. And of course when you wrap Jesus in the flag, Jesus suffocates. Americanism + Christianity is just Americanism. White supremacy + Christianity is just Americanism with a fertilizer bomb.
  • The amount of time I used to spend arguing about tertiary doctrinal issues is one of those things I look back on with a good deal of regret. I can’t imagine the kind of turd I’d have been if I’d had Facebook when I was 15. (You’re not ✨special✨ because you manage to stir up some controversy over some niche issue!)
  • Pumpkin in a bechamel is quite nice over pasta. You should try it out some time.

Christian

There’s a reason a bunch of progressives Christians and even some Evangelicals no longer want to use the word Christian.

It’s the same reason Americans sometimes sew Canadian flags on their backpacks when overseas.

The word has a lot of baggage. Still, I’m fine with it. It’s a good word. And baggage is important, isn’t it? We need to come to terms with (and not repeat!) what Christianity has done in the past. Kicking “Christian” to the curb and saying “Christ-follower” instead is nice if you don’t want to have to deal with crusades and witch hunts and colonialism and whatever.

But we do have to deal with that stuff. You don’t get adopted into a family and simultaneously wash your hands of the family skeletons.

There are other issues with the term, though. And not just stuff that’s been done in the past, but stuff that’s being done in the present. I’d guess that most of the folks who react viscerally to the term Christian aren’t reacting to our history, but to our present. (Recency bias is a thing; the past seems less horrific since we’re not living through it.)

In the present, in particular, the rise of Christian Nationalism is particular concerning. They don’t use the word Christian the way most Christians use the word. And they’re very, very loud about it.

The Christian Nationalist uses Christian to mean basically the opposite of what you might call the Christian ethic. They use it as a dogwhistle. Instead of “follower of Jesus”, they mean “a certain colour, a certain nationality, a certain class, a certain politics”.

Muddying the waters around the term Christian makes it very, very hard to tell what folks mean when they talk about their identity (and just to be clear, this is a particularly vile type of identity politics).

In an age with nationalism on the rise and Christian Nationalism on the rise with it, it becomes incredibly important to be extremely clear about what we mean when we say “Christian”.

Not just Western.

Not just white.

Not just conservative.

If you look at the landscape of Christianity around the world, this kind of “Christian” is vanishingly rare. They don’t represent Christianity, not even close.

As always, Jesus has something to say about this:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Matthew

This evokes, at least for me, a lot of what Christian Nationalism is. False prophets who offer a counterfeit faith, a sort of fusion of faith and country, where to perform Christianity to to perform a particular kind of Americanism.

But this thing is brittle. It it not part of the kingdom. It can’t survive in the face of the real ethic of the kingdom, which seeks not to dominate but to love and serve.

It’s crucial now more than ever to keep these false teachings out of our hearts and mouths.

And, as always, maranatha.

Why now?

We live in strange times. At the very least. I’d say bad times. Not, like, World War II bad, but pretty bad.

There’s a lot of stuff out there causing a lot of anxiety. The worst kind of anxiety, too: the sort of anxiety that reminds you that you are going to die.

It’s an anxiety that seeks resolution in different ways for different types of people. Some are choosing to take refuge in alternate versions of reality where the bad stuff isn’t happening. Or if it is happening, it’s not that bad. Or if it is that bad, it’s not their problem. Or if it is their problem, someone’s going to solve it for them.

For others, anxiety resolves in depression. Or keeping calm and carrying on, waiting the bad times out. Or waging an online war against misinformation. A variety of ways to deal. Some more and less helpful than others.

Aside from the general anxiety in the air (if you will) right now, there are also some very specific anxieties that pop up in particular groups as a result of very specific triggers.

One of them is American election season, my least favourite season, especially with the current state of political discourse in the US.

One reaction, on the right, has been to retreat into the fantasy realm of QAnon conspiracy. It’s a big tent, with everything from flat-earthers to baby-eating cabal types, to antivaxxers, to COVID denialists.

This is the “Trump is gonna save us” fantasy (and I call it a fantasy because Trump is very obviously not going to save anyone; he’s good at exactly one thing, and that thing is media manipulation).

On the other end of the spectrum, the left is extremely concerned with the rise of these loons.

The question is… why now?

The timing is suspicious. It’s almost as if it’s driven by fear that my chosen candidate won’t win the election.

I’m not going to mince my words or attempt to both-sides this. Trump is an inveterate liar and cheat who has failed upward his entire life, all the way into the presidency, and has chosen to surround himself with protofascists who want to create a white ethnostate. His administration, if you can even call it that, is transparently incompetent and corrupt.

If I had to choose (and I’m glad, as a Canadian, I don’t have to choose), I’d vote for Biden, a milquetoast liberal, simply to clean house.

So… anxiety.

The problem is this: none of the things we do to decrease our anxiety work. I mean, it might be comforting in the short term to pretend like leftist antifa BLM cabal paedophile Hollywood lizard-people are going to be defeated by daddy Trump, but that’s a childish fantasy. You’re going to have to move on eventually, and reality will still be there.

It might be comforting to think that your facts and logic and firm grasp on reality might shake some of these folks out of their dreamworld, but they’re immunized against facts, and your keyboard warrioring probably won’t do anything.

Both reactions are understandable. We live in an age of limitless knowledge and crippling powerlessness. We know so much, but can affect so little. The channels that we have, especially during the pandemic, to advocate and influence are faceless, mediated, and ultimately dehumanizing.

I wish I had some kind of silver bullet to offer, but I don’t. Other than to say, COVID will pass, election season will pass, late capital will pass, and some sort of normal will emerge out the other side.

In the meantime, be good to eachother.