Last Thursday, I caught the scent of a general disconnect with my peers back in Belleville. My friend had posted something on facebook regarding having swapped out her Canadian Netflix for American, and included the YouTube video she got it from. I suggested that speaking about it openly on a social networking sight may end up spelling out some rather particular consequences due to the murky intellectual property water she's treading in, and her response was hostile. I had to probe a bit to get the true source of the hostility, and I found that she's taking umbrage to some of the diction I use in my posts there, and presumably here, in which my comments are "long and cryptic using words that most people don't understand."

I think communication is important. I think I may even place a higher value on it than most people that surround me, because through communication, we achieve rapport and through rapport, peace, prosperity and understanding. If that's the case, then my diction and syntax choices may be producing a barrier to comprehensibility. I understand that there's an education difference between us as well. She's never really trusted the education system, and thus, didn't spend as much time in it as others, not having gathered her high school. I don't include this as any disparity regarding her intelligence or ability, but simply as a different path than the one I chose.

It's got me thinking, though. What is the purpose of these communications I write? Years ago, they were self-aggrandizing. I felt the need to prove my own intelligence and grow my self-worth through the regard of other people. Nowadays, I don't know. I feel that I've moved beyond that. I'm comfortable and happy with myself and have a general interest in seeing other people be happy and comfortable with themselves. Especially those folks I care about, and there are a lot of people I care about now, even peripherally, including those I rarely see or speak with. I coast through memories of good times had and that's enough to engender good will, the pursuit of a smile, or an attempt to brighten their day or ease their pain.

There's just so much pain in the world. Why spread it?

You can't please everyone, it's true. But this is such a little thing. I can surely make an effort to be a little more clear.
So there's this

For the terminally link phobic, it's an article from the guardian about how consumer demand in the developed world is effecting the prices of Quinoa in the developed world, and how it's effectively pricing its own producers out of the market for consuming it themselves. This sort of thing happens all the time in the global labour division. It's usually an upwards imposed crop, beginning with massive debt restructuring from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank, which leads to a Transnational Corporation (TNC) taking notice and planting a cash crop. This actually continues a longstanding colonial practice of colonizing a space, subverting its people, and planting cash crops which your slaves can work, gather together and shuffle off back to the homeland for market consumption.

In this case, I think Quinoa might actually be indigenous to this particular stretch of continent, but that ultimately doesn't matter. If demand goes up, then price goes up. If price goes up by enough, and then suddenly the meager amount of money (cents per day) these folks are making isn't going to cut it for paying for this once upon a time diet staple. This is the nature of global capitalism. The demand for product in the global north prices the people of the production-country out of their own product, and reinforces the IMF's demands of turning these countries into export-only economies and therefore dependent on expensive foreign imports. It's a pretty ingenious, hegemony-reinforcing fashion to ensure that the developing economies keep developing in perpetuity.

Furthermore, it's not just food. Look at the shirt you're wearing, the pants, the socks. Consider the computer you're writing on, the dishes you're eating off of, the television you're watching - if it's made in a developing country, and it probably is, then you're benefiting from someone else's suffering. For most of you, this isn't a revelation, even such I'm decently sure that most folks sometimes require some kind of reminder that they're benefiting from the suffering of others. Now here's where this gets a little strange. There is no ethical solution. You can't boycott products made from China - they have a way of sneaking into your bag when you're not looking. The quinoa you want to eat as an ethical alternative to meat is ultimately going to deprive someone else of something . Mostly everything you buy will have you benefiting from someone else's backbreaking labour. Capitalism as I've begun to understand it is a pyramid of exploitation, and it is impossible to live ethically unless you are at the base of the pyramid. Clearly, this question of the ethically lived life needs more research, so stay tuned.

I'm thinking that this new blog will end up taking a turn in this direction. Research, thoughts, connections, and explanations on how to get by in this increasingly globalizing world.
The Sunday edition of the Vancouver Province ran a full one page spread on the minimalist lifestyle. Now, if you know me at all, you know that that's something of a mostly unrealized aspiration for me. I have a zen for austerity; a subtle yearning for simplicity, so last night while I was driving the Blue, I made a mental inventory of all of my personal possessions. What I found was a little shocking.

I personally possess, and not share, less than 100 items that I can claim sole ownership over (excluding books). With the exception of four cups, two for water, two for coffee, I own none of the dishes, bowls, cups or cutlery in our kitchen. None of the pots and pans are mine, ditto for the rags. The toaster is hers, the spices, the tea-press (but not the tea) and the coffee-maker (but not the grinder or the coffee).

The couch and chair, graciously donated by our friends as housewarming gifts, will be contested ground, but most of the things on them won't be. They're mine and they're books, which I own in abundance. In truth, I own more books than I own anything else. Bookshelves, though, are in short supply. The playstation 3, and by proxy, the games, even the ones I bought for her, are hers. As are the television and stand. Anyway, to make a long and boring story short and reasonably succinct, I think I'm doing decently well on the austerity drive. If I do find myself suddenly single, I may actually need to purchase a few essentials for survival.

The point of the exercise isn't merely to pare down your baggage and upkeep, but the very Taoist (or Zen-Taoist, maybe) concept of unloading the superfluous emotional and spiritual weight, thereby finding release from the clutches of the 10,000 things. For others, it's a change of pace and a rejection of consumerism's core credo of competition through the quest for distinction. It's working fewer hours and making less money and enduring less distractions. That rout seems contradictory and self-righteous to me, but I'm sure these folks mean well.

For me, it's life the way I've always lived it. I've gone through periods of accumulation, and then later on suffered periods of contraction. I can't, for certain, say that I would accumulate much more than I have right now. I purchase practical things that I have a need for, rather than idle fancies or vanity pieces. You'll never see me behind the wheel of a Lexus or a Mercedes, but I may someday drive a Buick or a Honda. So far, my largest expenditures have been on my education. I've spent approximately $60K through two schools and maybe five years of post-secondary. I consider myself enriched by both experiences, but don't wear them as badges of distinction.

You'll note that earlier I wrote that austerity is mostly the lifestyle I've always adhered to the strongest. The reason for this isn't a lack of opportunity, as I've enjoyed enough of such to have engaged in the consumption behaviour, but it's from a simple lack of understanding. Why do people fight each other on Black Friday? Why do people line up, sometimes camping out for days, for a new smartphone? What is it, mostly, the sets of Gucci or Versace aside from the average handbag? Yes, I enjoy Mad Men, and I've read No Logo and it's counterpoint - The Rebel Sell - and I've studied post-positivist notions of identity construction as it pertains to advertising. I understand all of these things in a highly theoretical, rationally-based manner. They are abstractions, neat and causal, like math without physical representation. What I don't have, and need for full comprehension, is empirical embodied-knowledge. Experiencing is believing.

It sounds both crude and condescending to say this, but I fail to understand how anyone can allow themselves to be defined by their belongings. Why let anyone else define you? Why adopt someone else's semiotic standards? Why compete if there is nothing, except perhaps a hollow victory, to achieve? There's competition for resources, space and mates and all of these are perfectly valid reasons, even if modern technology and the social world we live in have made competition largely unnecessary. Why do we feel the need to drive a better car than our neighbours?

Now, again, I know that the answer to this is that ad-agencies construct 'false-needs' and do their utmost to create a 'buying-mood' and all of that jive, but again, these are conceptual understandings. The branding phenomenon is a business model, and will only have a maximal effect on a cross-section of the population and will be subject to diminishing returns the further one gets from the core, cultural demographic. You can't sell Nike basketball shoes to Latvian pensioners, for example, with the same efficiency as a lower middle-class American teenage boy.

This leads me to questions surrounding community, ritualism, and meaning construction. The going narrative is something like this: "In the absence of God, can the brand fulfill the promise of a stronger rapport?" These again are rational understandings, as I've never really felt connected to a community, or a higher-power. I suppose in a way that makes me lucky, as I was never really seriously indoctrinated in any belief-set beyond the standard memes required for citizenship. Even those are not beyond challenge; not in the way some of the more potent memes, like God, heaven, hell, markets and other articles of faith. While I recognize that I'm not, and nor was I ever, tabula rasa, I feel that the assumption of sometimes contentious and seemingly contradictory identities is entirely within my grasp. I am free to be whoever and whatever want to be with minimal risk.
Like most people, I wasn't born with a moral compass and over the years, I've had to fine tune it with the pain of fuck up after fuck up. It's more the memory of this pain that leads me to wonder whether or not I'm doing the right thing at times, especially in regards to those closest to me, and sometimes I wonder if the memory of that pain is actually being used against me, by folks who may not always have my best interests at heart. It makes it double, extra-strength hard, when the person in question is the person I should be putting the most faith in to act in my best interests.

Where there's sensitivity there's the increased potential for pain. I'm not saying anything particularly profound there, but it's not widespread enough to be considered a cliche, even if it is common sense. The point is that I'm not entirely sure that my responsibilities towards my fiance haven't enhanced given that fact. It's becoming fairly familiar around here, and by familiar, I mean I'm getting the same kind of tension vibe that I experienced with the person I was with back in Winnipeg. There are a lot of elements to the situation that are similar, and while it's very readily apparent that I severely fucked things up there over time due to my inexperience with those types of situations, I can't certainly say that I know the way out of that particular stretch of forest. I can not make the same mistakes, but I can certainly make others.

The circumstances are such:

Chemically aided depression. This stems from medication with depression as a side effect, and sadly, it's somehow the least of all the side effects available. Meaning, the depression is a positive trade-off in comparison to the nastiness potential of other side effects from other drugs. Hence, the complication.

Secondarily, she's either isolated herself from her friends, or her friends have reached that point in their life where they're super-busy and don't have time to maintain the same social relations they had in earlier years. Both of these are the case to an extent. Either way, my shoulders are taking on added weight and I'm beginning to buckle under it. I try to be as supportive as I can, but I can't help it if I'm getting increased urges for freedom. I'm content, and even happy being alone. This annoys her, because she definitely isn't.

There's also a financial angle in which Sears has been fucking her around for hours, and the pay has been drying up some, putting financial strain on both of us. This leaves her with a fair amount of free time to sit and watch Netflix and not be productive, and while she's off presently writing the last same of the year and then preparing later on tonight to do an all-nighter at the Crisis Line, it doesn't cover up for the sheer amount of time we have free. This also means that she can't attend regular k'ung fu classes, and I don't have enough leftover cash to cover her.

With all of this, we have the situation last night. I head off to k'ung fu with the hazy idea that we'd do something later. I say hazy because we didn't really put anything concrete down. My sifu and I don't really do any k'ung fu, but we head out to dinner instead, and after that I head up to find out why superintendant doesn't give a fuck for picking up his rent. When that was done, I went to hang out with Dad until we took off to work. When he left, he said I could stay and watch a movie if I locked up when I left, so I figured since I'd left it hazy, I'd just chill and watch the movie.

Yeah, bad idea.

It wouldn't have mattered so much, I don't think, if she had other options. But I wonder where my responsibilities begin and end regarding her in this matter and whether or not I've made the wrong decision. I come home and find her on the bathroom floor, crying and talking to her friend on the phone. It's the depression and the crushing loneliness. I read somewhere that men and women's communication styles are quite different via a number of dimensions. It hinged on the idea that men communicate in one dimension, usually verbal and predicated on the specifics of their speech, whereas women communicate in five dimensions - the verbal, the contextual, the subtextual, the emotional and body language. I don't buy that shit for a second, mind you. I've known communication savvy men - I kind of am one - but I sometimes wonder if there may be something to the idea behind the argument. Periodically, I find myself transgressing against some unseen barrier, which only partially reveals itself through conversation, and thinking ahead, which means thinking before I act, has a tendency to not uncover all of the barriers I could potentially trip. Hence, I trip barriers all the fucking time and spend most of my time apologizing, often enough for things that I don't feel that I should be apologizing for.

Given that it's difficult to communicate with her nowadays, it seems that this is the only option I have. This is the same experience I had in Winnipeg, and I'm having the same reaction - daydreaming about being single. I have to figure out a way to get through this communication barrier or else I need to start figuring out the logistics of being single again.

First Post

Dec. 10th, 2012 10:50 am
I suppose this is entry number one in my gradual, amazing leap from the sinking ship that is livejournal. I'm going to be keeping that journal in existence for the various communities that I'm a member of, but in case everything goes to hell in a hand basket with the new ownership, I thought I'd make sure I had a place to continue with the journey.

Naturally, however, I have nothing particularly pertinent to say, so a random update is in order.

I have a global political economy exam in the morning and am rather quite busy studying for it hen I'm not prattling around on the internet. My fiancee is presently starting her half of the dishes, and I'm fighting a losing battle in an argument regarding the religious persecution of atheists by theists.

As I've just been told, I'm coming from a position that has no experience with the persecution, and therefore, am assuming there to be a simple solution where, as I should be aware, there is no simple solution. Ever. It's true, though. I can be open about my lack of religious conviction and not experience much in the way of political persecution. Now, the upper echelons of democratic power may be closed to me because I'm not viewed as representative of the majority of Canadians with my nonbelief, but that's more an effect of democracy. What she's talking about is outright persecution: religious police showing up at my door to inquire about my empty place at mosque; exclusion from holding public office by undemocratic means; exclusion from civil society, for example, via being excluded from the population pool from which jury duty is selected. You can't simply lie and make those particular problems go away.



March 2013

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