I had to write Johnnie another letter, because of everything going on, and because he’s just a very good man.
. . .
I am ZMKF. I am 16-and-a-half-ish years old. It’s been about a year since my last letter. I’ve grown up some. I’ve debated with myself about whether I’m agender or genderfluid, been through two amazing Marine Zoology semesters that inspired a new website, joined Children’s Book World’s Teen Reader’s Council, and made two brilliant, somewhat exotically European deserts – apfelkuchen and pavlova – for the first time.
I was driving back home after accompanying an adult friend to their audition for whatever (they were “teensitting” me, the timing worked out) today, and I saw this:
That was a bad quality photo of a street ad version of this:
Isn’t he a crack up?
…He’s so much more than funny.
Yes, he’s very funny. But he has a heart. A big, kind heart beating in him. And he has power.
A few people have a few different opinions about this power.
Net Neutrality seems to be the thing that everybody thinks of when they think of the “John Oliver Effect” – a term I know may give you the willies. But as I’ve said before, in Round One, the John Oliver Effect does not exist according to your terms – it is a force of nature you have simply personified. Or, a couple forces of nature combined – whatever exists to create an “Age Of Reason.”
Allow me to explain – you know those times in history called Ages Of Reason, where the leader, whether they last for 100 years or 12, seems to know what they’re doing? They’re kind, smart, honest, understanding, and fair. In India, for instance, long ago, a lovely man named Akbar seems to have been this leader. But Ages Of Reason span regions.
It is my personal belief that Ages Of Reason are due to their common people just as much as their leaders. Some great leaders are born in the wrong time and fail, horribly. Sometimes good people rise up, and, again, fail horribly. Whatever scientific force or social entity there is to make sure everything works for a time, you are that.
To me, at least.
But that’s worse, isn’t it?
That deeply profound crap I just came up with is worse than the John Oliver Effect, isn’t it? For you?
The Atlantic, in the article of theirs I linked to above, calls you a “violent man.”
I don’t think they’re right. You’re can get reasonably frustrated about the state of the world, sure, but you’re more goofy than violent.
And we really need goofy in times like these. (Which is why I saw Paddington 2 today with my older friend before her audition. It is everything Rotten Tomatoes and The New Yorker say it is. Perfect. Anyway…)
Our President could kill us all with one bad move, and he is more likely to make that one bad move than pretty much anybody else we’ve had.
I don’t know what else to say other than, “I love you.”
You are so strong, so brave, so ridiculous and penguin-like.
If I were able to hug you once, that might help me.
Racial tensions are high in this country (they’re high pretty much everywhere…), but as I’m “hella” white, it’s not my personal fight – which means there’s almost nothing I can do to help. Global warming is indeed a thing, and I try to shout at people to go and help. I don’t reach a lot of people. I feel like I have to save the world sometimes. And I’m in a wheelchair. I’ve gotten used to it, but sometimes…I don’t even know. Yeesh. And I worry about time. Some people describe me as smart, that’s not a good thing, that just means I have philosophical anxiety, rather than worrying about a math test. I worry about time constantly, and it’s troubling, because time, linear or not, “keeps going.” I’m relatively almost 20 and I still feel 12. I’ve diagnosed myself as a “optimistic nihilist” (traditional nihilists are “death death death i don’t care about my wife,” while we optimistic ones are “we try to be positive and it works sometimes! We care about people and being nice! Memes!”) but sometimes, I’m just…not optimistic at all.
You’ve saved the world…a bit. You haven’t done enough for the world, and you know you haven’t done enough for the world (saving the world; that would require everyone pitching in), but you’ve done something. You’ve done enough for you. And that gives me hope. I’d rather have The Atlantic’s “violent man” than someone who doesn’t care at all. I’d rather have a man who brushes off his accomplishments rather than a man with no accomplishments.
You’ve taught me about so many problems I didn’t even know about before, and though that may seem like a complaint, you’ve also taught me about solutions, and weird wonders of the world (dog congress, traffic zebras?).
I just want you to know, if you’ve also felt the “I need to save the world,” you’re not alone.
And you’re not the last. You may have heard weird reports that Americans, or people in general, are getting more stupid over time, more attached to technology. Some of that is correct. I admit, the lower-than-millenials definitely have their faults. I sure do.
The Ends Of The World is about the five major extinctions our planet has endured. It is highly scientific, but for me at least, it reads like a novel – rightly emotional, fun, sweet, dark at times, and uplifting in the end. I loved the book so much that I annotated it. For fun. I got a pen and sat wherever I was reading it at any given time and expressed my feelings about the book, in the book. No teacher told me to. Peter sure didn’t.
The man’s Twitter feed is miraculous (some are missing their pictures or context, click each for full tweet):
Did an interview w/ a Dutch magazine that just went up, I translated it back to English to see what I said. Some real nuggets of wisdom here pic.twitter.com/hZJkyU51fZ
I had the great honor of interviewing him, and here it is for your reading pleasure:
1. On Twitter, in reposting this post (https://twitter.com/Paleocreations/status/928695855439376384), you said “Earth has been many different planets over its lifetime.” This is sort of a two parter…Of all the “planets” Earth has been, which one is your favorite? And where is your favorite place to be on Current Earth?
This is a very difficult question for me to answer, because it tends to change based on which period I’m researching at that moment. Some worlds, like the Cambrian world (illustrated in that link), I just love because of how alien they are. It’s difficult to believe that that world and our own both shared this same little plot of real estate in the solar system, even if we are separated by hundreds of millions of years. Of the periods I highlight in the book, there is the same sort of alien appeal for me in the Ordovician: the continents were nearly as desolate as Mars, but underwater, in places like tropical Ohio, it was just this explosion of sea life, and almost all of it was invertebrate–bug, squid, starfish-like etc.—and our ancestors, the fish, we’re all but irrelevant. It’s just a totally bizarre planet. And although it’s more recent, the Permian-Triassic planet is similarly alien to me. I’m fascinated by this version of planet earth in a sort of macabre way. It just gets so unbelievably hot and desolate. In fact, in these huge lifeless expanses of Pangaea there’s evidence that at one point earlier in the Permian it got as hot as 163 degrees Fahrenheit!
My favorite place to be on earth today is in front of any new rock outcrop with a geologist who can tell me what I’m looking at, and there’s good rocks everywhere. Geology has made the whole world more interesting to me.
2. What is your favorite fictional kingdom?
I was struggling with this question, when I suddenly remembered a series of books I had when I was younger called Dinotopia. I just google image searched it and the illustrations are as incredible as I remembered. That is a fictional kingdom I would like to visit.
3. Who was the kindest scientist you met on your journey of writing The Ends Of The World? And who was the most eccentric? (I think I might be able to guess your answer for most eccentric, but I’m gonna let you say it.)
All of the scientists were exceptionally kind in letting me barge into their offices and accompany them on trips to the field, and for not rolling their eyes when I asked a dumb question, so I’m going to be diplomatic and not single anyone out. “Eccentric” might have a slightly negative connotation in this context so I’ll just say that Gerta Keller certainly has the most interesting back story. As you know from the book, she basically ran away from home as a child, traveled the world, was later shot in a bank robbery, and today is easily the most divisive figure in the mass extinction community because of her iconoclastic interpretation of what killed all the non-bird dinosaurs 66 million years ago (not an asteroid, she says). As a group of people who spend their lives traveling to extremely locations to piece together answers to the big questions about the history of the planet, geologists and paleontologists are, as a rule, interesting people. But even among them Keller stands out.
4. What is your favorite element on the periodic table? Why?
I was tempted to say something crazy like astatine because of this xkcd piece https://englishatlc.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/randall-munroe-periodic-wall-of-elements.pdf. But I will be less exciting and say carbon. We’ve all heard before that we’re carbon-based life forms, and that carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas, but I think we fail to appreciate just how central this element is to the whole crazy project of life on this strangely habitable planet. Through volcanoes it moves from the rocks to the air, from there it gets incorporated into our bodies, and, if we’re shell-building organisms, or we get turned into oil or something, it goes back into the rocks again. It keeps the planet warm enough to survive, and when it gets too warm it naturally subsides in the atmosphere. Only in extremely strange and rare episodes, like during the continental flood basalt eruptions associated with ancient mass extinctions, and in our own current effort to liberate as much of carbon from old rocks as possible by burning coal, oil and gas in power plants does it get wildly out of balance and threaten the stability of our biosphere.
5. What (who?) is your favorite prehistoric animal?
Another impossible question. But I think I tend to gravitate towards either creatures that are underratedly terrifying, like Dunkleosteus which, as you know from the book, is this heavily-armored sea monster with a guillotine for a mouth, or animals that are truly bizarre. In this second category the Tully Monster comes to mind. I invite you to google it—the artists’ impressions of it are too strange to even describe. Others in the extremely strange camp that I love (to name just a few) are: Anomalocaris, one of the bewildering creatures that shows up at the dawn of animal life, and Tanystropheus, a marine reptile with a neck so incredibly long that it seems like the reconstructions must be wrong (they’re not). And like most people who enjoy visiting natural history museums I’m also drawn towards the extreme outliers in size, whether it’s Indricotherium, a hornless rhinoceros that was several stories tall, Leedsicthys, just this impossibly large, dumb-looking fish that lived in the Jurassic, or Quetzacoatlus, a pterosaur the size of a giraffe with a wingspan that rivals some small aircraft. Sorry to be so long-winded with these answers, there’s just too much from earth history to choose from.
6. During the researching and writing of the book, did you learn about something that particularly excited or scared you?
I’m both excited and scared, in this perfect mix, by the vastness of deep time. I don’t think I fully appreciated it before. I think astronomy gets a lot of credit for being mind-blowing but I think geology does the trick just as well. For instance, I’m on the east coast (in Maine at the moment) and if I went for a walk with each step representing a century, I would be done with the history of human civilization by the end of the driveway. But I could walk across the entire country to Los Angeles without even getting back to the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. And even then I would have covered less than 10% of earth’s history! Now that I’ve fallen in love with geology I am constantly having that same mind-blowing experience every time I look at a rock.
7. In The Ends Of The World, on page 130, you say: “Though climate science was long an esoteric field, today a familiarity with the basics should constitute a core part of any responsible civic education for citizens of planet Earth.” Yes. Absolutely. Who or what inspired you to become so interested in climate science and extinctions?
I’ve always been interested in the natural world, and I think my interest in climate science grew out of that. Like a lot of people my age I read Jurassic Park as a kid and was obsessed with dinosaurs. And then when I grew up I was a reporter writing about the ocean and all the modern changes we’re seeing to its temperature and chemistry. When I found out there was this deep connection between the subjects of earth history and climate change, that our experiment today with the climate has analogs throughout the history of life that we can look to for a glimpse of our possible future, it felt like a subject tailor-made to my interests.
8. In your opinion, is the problem with humans and global warming that we are capable of stopping it but generally apathetic, or that we are not capable of stopping it at all?
I think we are physically capable of stopping human-caused climate change but I have strong doubts about the political will to do so. The most realistic path to reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting ourselves to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 requires the entire planet to completely stop using fossil fuels well before 2050, and then to somehow start sucking an incredible amount of CO2 out of the air every year after that with technology that (for all practical purposes) doesn’t exist yet. That is quite the tall order. At this point I think it’s a question of what degree of climate change we are willing to live with. At the lesser extreme we could get our act together and live in a slightly warmer world that—though it certainly will have more extreme storms, and droughts, and heat waves, and things like that—might be manageable for us to adapt to as a civilization (though there will still be losers, especially in tropical, poorer countries). And at the other extreme is the unthinkable: that we just keep burning carbon buried by ancient life, like coal and oil, and catapult ourselves into an alien greenhouse climate from tens of millions of years ago.
I don’t have the words to describe how catastrophic the second option would be, but I don’t think there’s any reason we would ever have to get to that point. It would require another century or two of burning everything we can find in the ground, and even in the current toxic political environment there are reasons to be encouraged, especially by younger people, that voters are beginning to take the need to transform our energy system seriously. That said, in the very long run, over thousands of years, even the small changes we make to the climate will have dramatic effects. A recent study showed that the entire ice sheet of Greenland could melt with as little as 0.8 degrees of warming. We’ve already warmed the planet 0.8 degrees and will likely warm it by much more. The good thing is that to completely melt the whole thing takes thousands to tens of thousands of years (the bad thing is you don’t have to melt all of Greenland to raise sea level a lot). As for ocean acidification (what happens when CO2 reacts with seawater) it will take something like 150,000 years for nature to restore the changes we’re causing to ocean chemistry today.
9. Do you think we, citizens of the U.S, will ever have a “scientist President”? Or even a “historian President?” Someone who understands and is interested in science and history and enjoys learning? Someone who is kind but who also tries to be somewhat logical? (If you think you could ever run for President, you would definitely have my vote.)
Haha, that’s very kind of you. I sincerely hope we have a scientist president, and soon. So many of the problems we face today, and in the decades to come, will be scientific ones. And given the polling on questions like “How old is the earth?”, and an obvious dearth of critical thinking skills in the country in the age of “fake news”, it’s obvious that we’re massively underinvested in education. If I were president I would invest (probably to a slightly psychotic degree) on education and basic research. The National Science Foundation and NASA would do quite well in my administration. That said–and this is something of a digression–not all policy questions can be decided by science. There will always be a role for philosophy and ethics to play, along with a whole bunch of other subjects that I think too many scientists are too quick to sneer at as squishy.
For instance, Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently proposed a utopian society where every policy question is decided by data and scientific research alone https://www.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/reflections-on-rationalia/10154399608556613/. I think there’s a lot to recommend this vision of society, especially when you compare it to our current scientifically illiterate one. But there would be major limitations to it as well, some of which would quickly become ghastly. Take Tyson’s example on how we should decide whether to have the death penalty, which he says should depend on the data on whether it’s effective at deterring crime. But this data is useless without some prior system of ethics. For instance, there would likely be a strong deterrent effect on the crime of shoplifting if we made it punishable by death, but I don’t think that this would inform us whatsoever on whether it’s the wise or just path for a society to take. There will always be these moral questions for us to decide.
10. In your opinion, what was the worst mass extinction so far?
The End-Permian mass extinction is the worst mass extinction in the history of life and there’s not really a close second. Enough lava erupted in Siberia 252 million years ago to cover the lower 48 United States a kilometer deep, and the volcanoes injected so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it caused temperatures to spike something like 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Up to 96% of life in the oceans died. Trees all but disappear in the fossil record for 10 million years after the mass extinction. Coral reefs are replaced with piles of bacterial slime. The planet basically had to reboot after the catastrophe, and it took millions of painful years to do so. It was the worst moment in the history of the earth. And yet, the earth recovered. And it did more than just recover. From the ashes of the End-Permian mass extinction blossomed the age of dinosaurs and, after that, the age of mammals, and everything we see living in our world today. Life is incredibly resilient and even after the worst disaster in its history the earth enjoyed its greatest flourishing. I think there are some lessons we can learn from our wonderful planet.
. . .
Peter Brannen is a huge nerd and a problem solver (and he referenced two of my other favorite people, Randall and Neil!). Like he says on page 130, I believe it is important to see the planet not as your world or my world, but as a planet. Operating on geological time, functioning as a whole. Seems obvious. Isn’t. I guess I love Peter so much because he is rare. He sees the planet as the whole that it is. He is both kind and smart, something you don’t often see. He recognizes the importance of the ocean, penis worms, and you and I.
I ended up searching Dinotopia on Google Images. My favorite fictional kingdom is Britain as it appears in the Harry Potter series, but Dinotopia looks very cool. I might like to visit there if I could.
Emmanuel Macron put this on his Facebook four days ago:
In pulling the U.S out of the Paris Accord, Trump quickly went from douchebag to dangerous. This is not a series of jokes. This is a series of hard blows against our integrity, safety, and capacity for compassion. And this is a big deal. A big, scary deal. Let yourself get scared by this. You are afraid because you are aware, and because you aware, you have the power to fix these problems, however daunting they are.
But the funny thing is, the worse it gets, the better my outlook is.
These are just the first few results I got from Googling “companies and mayors paris agreement:”
(Please actually look at these links. I try to write about some good stuff, but I don’t know everything, so I cite people who know more than little old me. It’s educational, guys.)
This is happening, guys, gals, and non-binary pals.
Trump screwed up, and now, maybe because it falls on us no matter whether we accept it or not, we are taking charge. And then there’s my man Macron. He knows that the current President of the United States only represents a small but loud group whose headquarters lies in Trump’s hairy, wrinkly, orange armpit. He knows most U.S citizens share something powerful with most French citizens…and most Indian citizens, and most Chinese citizens, and most Japanese citizens, and most German citizens. There are going to be bad, sucky, horrendous people everywhere. No country is perfect. Not even Sweden. (However, Sweden is willing to admit it.) But there are also going to be good and great, innovative, kind people everywhere. Macron’s favorite type of person. Everywhere. Regardless of age, race, culture, sex and sexual orientation. It is all fine and nice to be patriotic, and it is wonderful to let the borders dissolve when we need to. Countries can be countries. We don’t have to try and build a world government (that would be disastrous). But countries and nations can and should work together without spite, because it is not the government or reputation that matters, it is the people. Every country holds people worthy of love within it. Not one country is better than another, not in that way.
The French spirit is the Brazilian spirit and the Morrocan spirit and the American spirit and the Bulgarian spirit and the Kenyan spirit and the British spirit. Because the best people share it no matter where they are. We are not our worst: The KKK, ISIL, Boko Haram, the Nazis – nope. And we are not our dictators. Saudi Arabia, the U.S, Russia…we pride ourselves on our best because we are forced to. We are not who is in charge.
Which brings me to Macron’s offer.
He asks the scientists, engineers, and designers of the U.S, the innovators fighting climate change in a sea of bullshit and hate, to come to work and live in France.
My point isn’t that I am not going to go to France ever. My point is that I am probably not going to France anytime soon.
I am a writer and designer, and I hope to own a bed-and-breakfast when I am older, so I may write and design when I want to as opposed to on a deadline. With that in mind, I can be relocated nearly anywhere, as long its pretty enough to support a cutesy bed-and-breakfast. And it is not as though I do not like France. I have never been there, but I have learned about the country from my French language class and – *sighs* – Google. It is very aesthetically pleasing, the schools are – generally – better, and they are prepared to deal with global warming. “As in the UK, France has adopted a series of carbon budgets with the first three running 2015-2018, 2019-2023 and 2024-2028. To meet its 2050 target the country needs to cut 9-10 megatonnes of carbon dioxide every year says the report, and cut energy emissions 96% by mid century.” From France delivers 2050 climate plan to UN.
But even though I can easily be picked up and plopped down somewhere else, there are still things I cannot control that keep me here. My parents need to be in Los Angeles for their work. Not only that. My school is here. And while the French education system might be better, this particular school I go to is one I’d miss. It is not traditional, very open, relaxed, and filled to the brim with use and value. How do you take a school with you on a plane? One of my favorite teachers just retired, but there are the students too, and my remaining wonderful teachers. My best friend moved away to Napa, and the other’s always busy – but Napa’s easier to visit than France! (Unless I kidnapped her and took her with me.) Then there’s my other friends, slowly becoming besties. I can’t make anybody move just because I want to. I suppose this is decision making, weighing the things in your life to help you decide what to do. But the decision isn’t only mine. As I may have mentioned, I have two parents I can’t get rid of until at least college. Each with their own lives, friends they won’t want to move away from, careers. Not too mention – we like our house. My house is a good one.
And then there’s the whole guilt/anger factor to moving away to “escape Trump.” Read: Movers And Shakers.
There is much to think about.
But if you do move, France is a great place to move to!
Maybe my family and I will move to France in a year. Two and a half years. Four years, after Trump is out of office anyways. Maybe we’ll move to Singapore, or Barcelona, or a part of Croatia. Maybe we’ll stay in the U.S.
But wherever we are, we will stand with France.
It is not one President we are fighting. It is a lack of progress. So whether you fight in the U.S or overseas, you are fighting with peace and love, and that is what matters.
There are those who say that if we, as the species of engineers we are, do not strip something from the land, whether it be an animal for food, or a tree for a lumber, or a mineral for mining, then we are missing out on valuable resources. But public lands, lands that exist for the people and other species that roam this Earth rather than for companies or development, are some of the most valuable resources we have. There is a quote by Theodore Roethke: “Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light.” Famous, slightly vague quotes can have a slightly different meaning for everybody. I won’t tell you my understanding, I’ll just let his words sink in. Ever since humans started thinking, we’ve found joy and peace in nature. Using it as a remedy for depression isn’t a waste of your time. Obviously, medicine created to combat depression works directly and chemically. But this doesn’t disprove that there is an inherent “light” in nature. Speaking from my own experience, I use nature as a solvent for negativity. In the future (hopefully this behavior will start sometime soon), nature will be looked at as a necessity, not just for recreation, within and outside of all our cities. It is just as much of a needed thing as electricity, copper, or a citrus farm is.
The fact that there is an entire branch of federal government devoted to our emotional wealth is a fact that I love to think about. The federal government has a lot of problems – but this is one of the upsides to having a nagging mother, always present, that is obsessed with red tape.
There’s just one problem.
What if mother goes back on her promise to uphold one of the only purely good things she does for us?
Normally, when a particularly rich person owns a swath of land, it is for them and them alone. There is a gate around the entire thing, with a sign at the entrance reading “Private” or some variation of that word. But what if the sign said “Part of the Private Lands Conservation group. Please park around corner after entering through gate. Two dollars for parking. Enjoy”? (The Private Lands Conservation group is real thing, I’m positively ecstatic to admit that this is not my original idea: https://www.nature.org/about-us/private-lands-conservation/index.htm – I’m just writing about it!)
What if mother doesn’t want to hurt us, but is being forced into going back on her promise by a giant orange crayon?
As Elizabeth Warren reminded me when I went to see her speak, the government is not evil. You are not immediately mean and sour if you work for the government, and you are not weak if you rely on the government. The government does indeed have many dangerous flaws, but ones we can fix over time if we work together and diversify. Examples? Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Yates, the Obamas, Hillary Clinton (she ain’t perfect but she works hard and tries to be there for us, which we need right now), Bernie Sanders, and the thousands of relatively – sadly – unknown people working to undo damage and prop us up. Most of them are just in the wrong positions (Elizabeth Warren for President!)…or maybe the exactly right positions. Most things can take time.
Global warming and conservation can’t. Which is why I say we rip our “valuable resources” out of the orange crayon’s hands as soon and as painfully as possible. And no, it’s not just the orange crayon! It’s just that people like me have to keep mentioning him when something comes up because he’s the Big Loud Orange Megaphone for everyone we’d mention if he wasn’t sitting right smack dab in the middle of the Oval Office! Where was I? Ah yes. Hit him where it hurts and save the world at the same time.
As some of you may know, I plan to own and operate a bed-and-breakfast (small hotel) as my base career to earn enough money to write and design when I want as opposed to on a deadline.
The bed-and-breakfast will be in an area populated enough that I earn money from it, but secluded enough that I can make the area around the bed-and-breakfast a giant public garden, roughly the size of the smaller state parks.
Ambitious? Hell yes. A bit daunting? Maybe. But for those looking out for me, this is a good investment: Conservation should not only be in the hands of the government, a thing which noticeably changes every four years, even after Mr. Orange Crayon leaves office. If we truly want to save this world from environmental catastrophe, the right type – a philanthropic, environmentally sound type – of private ownership should be more common.
This “privablic” land would be private in the sense that there is a person, family, or even corporation who owns it, but public in the sense that anyone can come and enjoy it. How do we further incentivize this already existing approach? Larger tax deductions for private owners who donate their land for public use would be helpful. Also, some cities require that for large developments, per a certain amount of private space developed, a portion of it must be allotted to public access. All cities and states should require the same.
I enjoy being hospitable and taking care of people (as well as meeting strange folks from across the country and world), and I’ve also started a financial plan earlier than most people my age (emphasis on most), concentrated on saving money and remaining stable throughout my adult life. I have a strong belief that the bed-and-breakfast will work out for me, that way I can do odd jobs when I want without losing money.
I do not doubt that the public garden will work just as well, but just in case I can’t pay for it with the money I make, I hope the Nature Conservancy will have my back.
During the campaign period for the 2016 election, I heard the usual: “I’ll move if Trump wins.” Once he did – still sometimes sadly incomprehensible to me, that he won – those types of comments were seen as jokes. Often a plain case of “Oh, I changed my mind.”
Why? Why would so many people change their minds on such a pivotal thing without giving it much thought?
If they saw his victory as urgently, terrifyingly negative then (enough to move!), why do they not now? More has come out, if anything, he should be seen as worse!
There were about only 9 people, who actually moved out of the country, that have been mentioned by a major news source. (The BBC wrote this.) At least 20 people have moved in general. At least 20. As the BBC writes, one woman “is ‘totally heartbroken’ and had always thought she would raise her two daughters in the US.” These people, who moved, all have one thing in common – fear. Fear can be a good thing, or a bad thing. These people were heartbroken and afraid enough to move. When I say afraid enough to move…you’ll notice that this post is tagged with many tags, including the word “complacency.” I tag my posts with it quite a lot. It is a fantastic vocabulary word.
Complacency is a funny little state of being. And it is “the public” of any country or nation in one word. The truth is, with the United States of America in particular (it is where I – currently – live, after all), enough has been unearthed about the government and our societal practices that there should have been a full-scale rebellion a few years ago. We are lulled to sleep. For example, look up the phrase “will the Hunger Games ever happen” or some variant on your preferred search engine. Most articles that answer this question end with “Probably not.” The common explanation is that as a species, which has many societal gains to back up our inborn humanity, we simply wouldn’t let it happen. But the people of the Capitol are just as emotional and sentimental as we are. They’re just more tolerant. Every good or bad idea will be opposed at first. But depending on who they idea panders to, soon, it will gain traction. ISIS (ISIL, DAIISH, etc) is doing a more modern and therefore more aggressive version of what the Christians did back in the old days to become a major religion. Unless we deal with it now (and in the correct way! It is an ideology, not an army), it will morph into common culture. There are always going to be people who will resist the public processes and ideas, but in today’s culture, they are conspiracists and harmless rebels who hide themselves in their run down house, hoarding newspapers and food. Once the snowball gets to a certain size, it will get bigger and bigger without encouragement from the person who started the roll down the hill. Sneak the snowball in without people knowing, and the people will except the snowball as one of their own. Eventually, everything becomes accepted.
Heartbreak and fear are two good ways to break out of the cycle of complacency.
So it appears that most of us are not sufficiently heartbroken and afraid.
Why the hell not?
Poverty is rampant. It has been normalized, and yet the impoverished people themselves have been alienated, to the point where you are taught to ignore and avoid, ignore and avoid. Homeless people are scary, and yet simultaneously, dirty and broken little humanoid sacks of meat bent on destroying your nice white picket fence. We think of them as bad pieces of furniture. They ruin our views. Even those who sympathize with them stay away from them. I sure do. And sure, mentally unstable people are dangerous to be around, but we act as if every homeless person is dangerous. We do nothing. When they ask, we act as if we have nothing.
We already lived in a dystopia before Drumpf was elected.
People with darker skin or the “wrong” facial features face humiliation and a higher chance of dying every day.
We noticed it. We pretended to cry over the fallen.
It is seen as bad to be a woman. By default. Without evidence to suggest that this is correct.
And yet we do nothing.
Gender has become two neat little boxes we’re all supposed to fit in. To the point of abuse.
We are awARE WE?
Wake up now.
The revolution. I am not the stereotypical rebel. I am blonde, hazel-eyed, already 5’1 and I use a wheelchair. Adorable. Short. Smart. I’ve got glasses. And I’m a pacifist. I can never remind you people enough. To clarify, I am not a passive person. I made a promise once to never kill, and to never let anyone die.
The revolution is now.
Moving…is not the right move. You’ll hear of a few celebrities who weren’t “kidding” about moving out of the country, but had decided to stay and fight.
The revolution has become a trend, of 15-second fame.
TRY TO FIGHT BUT FAIL. TRY TO RISE BUT SLEEP. BE LULLED TO SLEEP.
If you are one of those who decided to stay and fight…FIGHT. Maybe not physically. But don’t just post on your favorite website. Don’t just use that hashtag. I don’t encourage you to damage the personal property of the innocent, but have an affect!
You may be thinking, as a close friend or Facebook user my mom knows, how dare I accuse you of being complacent? How dare I preach?
We are all complacent. And it is time to break down the wall. Not just poke small dents into it.
BREAK IT DOWN.
You’re going to drive down your lane in your car listening to your music doing your business…having done nothing to solve the problems that need it most.
Dear – it’s only appropriate that I call you all this – Lovely Children Of Mine,
Being a single mother does not excuse what I’ve done, it does not excuse how bad of a mother I’ve been.
I am white. I am straight. I am cis. I am a woman. I am able-bodied. So many of my children have it worse – in way, yes, it is worse – than I do because of me.
I was born out of an angry three-way Spain had with England and France. I was very dysfunctional as an infant. I had difficulty understanding empathy.
I have been sexist.
I have been homophobic, and transphobic, and even, in my earlier years, Irish-phobic.
I have been racist.
I have been cruel.
And there is some sort of illness I have, similar to lycanthropy or alcoholism, where sometimes – most of the time in some places, almost never in others – I still am this way. This relapse happens often. But do I let it define me? Do I let it define us?
That is the philosophical argument I wake up every morning with.
The other countries hate me. I understand where they’re coming from. I’ve considered killing myself, ripping myself apart from the inside out, to save you, my children. The reason I don’t may be as simple as cowardice, but I like to think I have some future…out there…somewhere.
There’s no justification for all I’ve done. And I know that being aware of all that I’ve done doesn’t make it any better. I have to be cured of this.
There’s no way I can’t be defined as sexist, racist, cruel…broken. And this, my children, is why I wake up wondering if it’s worth it to try and make a new name for myself. Can I truly get better? With Dopleed Nurmp as President? With anybody as President? Can any President be a true cure? No one person can change me, even surrounded by good people who try their hardest, I’m still…like this. But I think, it’s because they’re not really trying their hardest to help me, and I’m not really trying my hardest to change. Even the Obamas, who worked their butts off (they actually gave me hope for the future!), couldn’t accomplish as much as if…everyone cared more. Cared enough to not just repost on social media. Cared enough to actually protest against, well, me, whenever I relapse. Cared enough to break the cycle of complacency. My children, you see my problems, my flaws, the truly bad ones, and you say, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll deal with her.” And I do not blame you at all, the fact is, I blame myself, but don’t you need me intact? Don’t you feel you should assist me in my rehabilitation? I cannot express how truly sorry I am, but I cannot function alone, I cannot feel sorry – I cannot feel anything – if I am not in a safe, welcoming space.
Oh, but here I go again, finding some excuse, someone other than I to blame, finding some reason to give me a “safe, welcoming space.” I was heartless – I still am! I do not deserve such a space! I need to do some growing up!
Children, I must ask that you lead the way. I do not suffice. You have to be a citizen of the world, not just of me. You have to love, and love more, and love even more. You have to think rationally and hopefully and intelligently and honestly. You must get better, so I can follow. You have to be architects and poets and activists and you have to disregard and go around the stupid white people, all the while enlisting the smart ones for help. You have to believe in yourself and care about yourself and be yourself and no one else.
I can’t fall apart more than I already have. I can’t lose you more than I already have.
And here we walk into the dark chaos ahead of us, fully aware of the danger…
. . .
A note from ZMKF (who really wrote that letter): One of the best ways I express myself is through music. I am an expert playlist-maker. Here is my Trump coping playlist: Fuckface Von Clownstick. And here is the U.S.A’s “The U.S. Is Sorry/Strong” playlist: The U.S Is Sorry/Strong.
The Futuristic World: The world of the future will be a complex one, regardless of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Technology – a big pixelated hand of man created to do what man wants, evolving before our very eyes – and nature – the elements of the universe, or multiverse, the never-blank slate we were born into and have been toying with ever since, the illusion of a God, the methodology of being born to run and made to work – must find a perfect equilibrium for Homo sapiens (and the other species born on Earth, as they are no less important) to survive. We must help that process.
According to http://ridesharechoices.scripts.mit.edu, “carpooling first became prominent in the United States as a rationing tactic during World War II. It returned in the mid-1970s due to the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis. At that time the first employee vanpools were organized at Chrysler and 3M.” (Exact phrasing of the information presented taken from the Wikipedia page “Carpool.”)
Carpool lanes, as a concept, were accepted world-wide for two reasons.
1. Everybody hates traffic.
2. To cut carbon emissions.
The latter is kind of a big deal, because everyone has carpool lanes in their cities, even in the South of the United States.
Carpool lanes do help cut carbon emissions, not by much, but it’s the little things that count, and we’ve packaged them as something that everybody can enjoy, even those who don’t believe global warming is a real problem! Everybody hates traffic. Emphasis on everybody. The pill in the peanut butter is a tactic my mom uses to feed my dog her medicine. My dog needs the medicine, but she sure as hell doesn’t like it. This is how we fix the world. Think about Republicans, conservatives – people who stereotypically deny the truth. (This isn’t a behavior all Republicans have in common.) Democrats and liberals do it too, except it is more insidious, because they’re supposed to be “correct.” Ask an average Southerner if they’re willing to do anything about global warming, racism, or gun control, and you are sure to get a “Expletive no, you expletiveexpletive.” People like this are so stuck in their ways that the only way to get them to help – and with the bigger problems, we need everybody working to solve them – is to trick them.
We are in dire need of solutions.
The Doomsday Clock is a scientifically accepted method for predicting when the world will end.
Yep – two minutes (two and a half minutes, actually) left. (It would do you some good to research this “clock” extensively, it’s very educational, and surprisingly hopeful, in the sense that they believe taking action would help at all.) The factors the clock counts include nuclear weaponry, climate change, and bio-security. “Two minutes” left on this clock isn’t literally 120 seconds, but it’s still plenty worrisome, as it was 17 minutes to midnight in only 1995 – this clock doesn’t necessarily rely on time. Instead, it calculates risk. The closer to midnight, the bigger chance of disaster striking at any moment. (See the Doomsday Dashboard for the main information the clock uses for its calculations.) The clock isn’t always accurate, but almost nothing is, and this is one of the most reliable sources in the world, created by top scientists, some of whom worked on the Manhattan project.
This clock shouldn’t paralyze you with fear.
It is the inaction of being paralyzed, by any feeling – fear, sadness, rage, embarrassment – that is the true danger. If these problems deter you emotionally, you should work even harder to solve them, rather than retiring into nonintervention.
We’ve got two main options left, if we want to re-wind the clock:
1. A “City Of Ember” (written by Jeanne DuPrau) thing. Move underground. Destroy the aboveground power plants, dams, and cities, and leave the Earth to the animals, plants, and weather patterns for at least 200 years. Come back out when the time is right, and begin again.
2. A massive change to the way people think. Less procrastination. Less complacency. More thinking, more doing. Kindness and intelligence being priorities. Weird ideas – attaching microbes to fish teeth so fish can eat materials found in trash, maglev trains, apps meant to maximize philosophical thinking – that are so “far out” they just might work.
The United States has so much potential to do good. We’re growing, slowly, getting better, even slower. I wouldn’t want to bomb this country into oblivion. And I don’t want to “leave the country if you don’t like it!”
But I’m white. And yes, I’m agender and female (gender and sex are different), asexual-panromantic, and a wheelchair user – don’t ask, that’s for another blog post, but the fact is, I have white privilege. “My people” hold the highest positions in nearly everything, and society praises them as superior. Even a homeless man looks more “pleasant” if he’s white, as opposed to black, brown, or frickin purple. “Your people” are scattered throughout the country, viewed as powerless although I know that is not true, made to live like illegal immigrants when really it was us who came in unwanted.
So maybe, I only think things are going well is because of my whiteness. Maybe I’m biased because I’m not treated like crap every day. I’ve got a great life, when I think about it. Great school. Really great family and friends. Great social situation. I’m…great. I’m so great that I’ve used the word great six – no, seven – times in this paragraph. Great. (Eight.)
When you guys first got here, you crossed the Bering Strait – maybe as early as 22,000 years ago – which disappeared after the Ice Age ended, leaving you to adapt to each environment you encountered. (You even learned how to huntwoolly mammoth – a pre-historic elephant-like creature with too much hair, and an attitude.)
You went from north to south, and developed into the American Tribes, as well as the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca. You lived on cliff sides and in canyon bottoms, and you had a multi-story buildings, and underground ceremonial chambers. You had complex governments, empires spanning thousands of miles, and I’m not even surprised about any of this. Of course, you’re just people, no one culture gets everything right, but you were fantastic. Better than we were. The more I read about you guys, the more “Sh*****t, we f*cked up!” is uttered from my mouth. I even made a playlist to express how sorry I am: I’m SO Sorry – from, Whitey. But I know my awareness doesn’t excuse anything.
So what can I do? To make it up to you, or, if it’s unforgivable, to prove that I would to make it up to you if that were possible?
It’s plain and simple that my ancestors were not involved. We came later, from Germany and Greece. But I still feel partly responsible. Is that weird?
Let’s have a thoughtful discussion about this.
This isn’t so I can feel better about myself. This is so I can make the world a better place.
What can I do?
I’m not willing to “fight” hard, but I am willing to write hard. I’m a writer. I wasn’t at the marches last Saturday because I was busy thinking up how to write this effectively. And writing, drawing, painting, works.
How may I be of service to the great number of communities we utterly destroyed?
+ If you’re wondering what this is about, I’ve started a new thing called “Letters To People I Love.” This is different from “People I Respect And Why,” because in “People I Respect And Why” I simply name a person or group, most often a person, and rant about how much I respect and admire them, and why, but in “Letters To People I Love” I treat the blog posts as I write as actual letters to them. A way of telling them, straight from me, how much I love them. Enjoy. +
. . .
Dear John Oliver,
My name is ZMKF. I am – currently – 15 years old. I guess you could say I’m too young to watch your show, if the people who attend it have to be 18 or older, and most of my favorite movies are all animated, excluding Harry Potter. I was – surprise! – only 11 or 12 when I first starting watching The Daily Show (with Jon Stewart) and The Colbert Report, so by the time you hosted for him, and then got your own show, I was ready to start watching Stewart’s angry “cousin” – you.
Am I too young for one of the most healing shows out there?
Yes, I said healing, even though you are also crude and aggressive – er, passionate. Healing. You are healing. When Colbert “left” (yes, I know he’s got a show), I tried to fill the hole with Stewart, which worked pretty well, considering Colbert is pretty much Stewart’s spawn. Not that Colbert could ever be replaced – it was more like I was holding on to what I had left for dear life. I thought “C’mon, Stewart’s gotta stay for at least a few more years, especially after that.” And Stewart left, not too long after The Colbert Report ended, and…I was watching the last episode, and I never cried at sad movies, ever, but I was crying then, not even weeping but I could feel the tears on my face; but I was also smiling, and it felt…right, because whatever is right for him is right for me. And then…there was…you.
Your show is relatively new, so I know you are staying for a long, long time. And of course there is a difference in the way the two shows are written, so even though you hosted for some time while Jon was away, you are refreshing. (Not that Stewart isn’t refreshing.) Also – my family finally had an excuse to pay for HBO, giving us access to the other great shows out there.
Currently, you are taking your annual break and you come back February 12th. I’ve missed you. You make me feel safe, and joyful, and driven. And you’re kinda attractive, in the adorkable, they’re-an-artist-and-you-can-see-it-in-their-face way. (Like Lin-Manuel Miranda.) You really are the perfect man. (Do not read into that.) You are needed. And I’m not asking you to come back early, I’m asking you to believe me: The John Oliver Effect is real, and a viable way to make the world a better place. Please, I’m not trying to embarrass you or put you on the spot, I’m really not. But I require that you sit your a** down and listen to me compliment you, and everyone who works on the show with you, and you know what, maybe these aren’t even compliments…maybe they’re not aimed directly at you, maybe they’re just true.
I care a lot about you, because you do good work for the planet and the organisms who live on it.
I know you don’t think about the aftereffects of each episode, I know you’re just thinking about how to do the next one. I know all this (from an article I read), but I also know that there’s such a thing as object permanence. Or even concept permanence. You cannot come up to me and say to my face that you are not influential. The John Oliver effect isn’t up to you. I don’t really care what you think of it, I mean I never want to actively upset you, but the J.O.E is a thing whether or not you like it. Just ask any one of these news sources (click on the names, they’re links, and they’ll take you to articles written about the J.O.E by each of them): Make Use Of, TIME, Fortune, UPROXX, Bustle, and Bustle again. I literally just looked “john oliver effect” up on Google and took the first six results, I bet there’s way more. Point is, majority wins, the J.O.E is a thing.
For example, Last Week Tonight did a special on net neutrality and because of the flood of comments from your viewers, the FCC servers crashed and the FCC itself agreed to adopt net neutrality regulations.
I’ve missed your accent, your specific voice, your mind, your big, warm heart. I’ve missed you because Donald Drumpf is President-elect, and Jon Stewart isn’t hosting The Daily Show anymore, and the more you learn about history the more you realize white people f*cked up big, and global warming is a thing and a very bad one, and did I mention Drumpf is President-elect?
We need The John Oliver Effect, now more than ever. I mean, I’m a writer and I sure do try hard, but I suppose that even though I never ever want to be famous, I will always want to be known, if only so I can know my trying hard affects something. Yours does. I don’t care who does the hard trying, rather I just want things to be done. And you do things.
I love you.
Yeah, it’s love. You’re a father figure for me and I doubt I would be the person I am today, the eloquent writer, dreamer, and fighter, without you.
Edit (January 23rd, 2018!): This is Round Two. Johnnie, if you’re reading this, please read this one too! Round Two!
First of all: This is my first blog post after New Year’s Eve, so belated Happy New Years to you all.
And second of all: This is my second post on the Governmental Genocide Prevention Council (GGPC). In my first, I introduced the idea and fleshed it out a little. It’s a new idea, so it’s not like I have an official document typed up yet, but I do my best to make it “make sense.” You should read the first one (link here: The Electoral College Voted (Dec 19th), And…), otherwise you won’t understand what the heck I’m talking about.
Basically, the GGPC would replace the Electoral College. But the Electoral College is a very complex thing to replace. It is simple enough to explain, but if someone told me they had a plan to replace it, I’d ask “How?” and I have a feeling you’re wondering that same thing. HOW would the GGPC replace the Electoral College? How would the responsibilities transition from one group to the other?
If God is in the detail, congratulations, we’re the lucky few about to have tea with God.
I’d call this “The Basic Concept, Part 2”:
The Electoral College is responsible for preventing the rise of a demagogue, and even those few who refuse to believe that any U.S politician counts as one say that the Electoral College is a plain old “shit shield” (my term) for the election. Both things are true, technically. Alexander Hamilton once said “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort…” He was speaking directly about the Electoral College. And Hamilton? He don’t kid around. (Ask Lin-Manuel Miranda.) According to archives.gov, “the United States Constitution and Federal law do not prescribe the method of appointment other than requiring that electors must be appointed on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November (November 8, 2016). In most States, the political parties nominate slates of electors at State conventions or central committee meetings. Then the citizens of each State appoint the electors by popular vote in the state-wide general election. However, State laws on the appointment of electors may vary.” The Electoral College is not a particular place of meeting, it is a process, administered by “The Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives and Records Administration.” There are 538 electors, and 270 electoral votes is a majority.
One important thing to remember is that once the Electoral College votes (and it has, for the 2016 Presidential election), it’s still not over. It goes to Congress next. And Congress can file complaints. According to archives.gov, “If any objections to the Electoral College vote are made, they must be submitted in writing and be signed by at least one member of the House and one Senator. If objections are presented, the House and Senate withdraw to their respective chambers to consider their merits under procedures set out in federal law.”
Alas, the Congress is mainly Republican, at least so far, and January 6th is…today. So I guess that’s that. It’s over now.
At least officially.
But not with the GGPC.
The concept, as it relates to the replacement process, is this:
1. The GGPC would screen the candidates, like the Electoral College. Unlike the Electoral College (you’ll remember this from my first GGPC post!), the GGPC would contain “at least three of each: diplomats focused on the overall wellbeing of the country/nation as well as the relations of the country/nation with other countries, humanists focused on the wellbeing of a previously or currently oppressed group as well as any group who is urgently and negatively affected by prejudice, environmentalists focused on maintaining a healthy and stable environment as well as removing dangers caused by environmental disasters/contamination, and finally, intellectuals focused on the overall effects of each Presidency as well as upholding the dignity and reputation of a country or nation.” They would therefore screen based on their own qualities: diplomatic and critical thinking, kindness, intelligence and scientific thinking, and logical thinking would need to be obviously and strongly present in a candidate for them to even be considered, and the opposites of those qualities would need to be largely absent.
2. The screening would continue into the candidate’s Presidency, if elected. This isn’t too hard to visualize, the GGPC would stay behind the scenes, they wouldn’t run the country, they would simply take a page from the UN’s book, and make any effort possible to remove a leader showing signs of the opposites (see 1).