Knowledge is power–that’s why it’s so expensive

In America, you have to pay lots and lots of money to get an education. So much so these days, that if you aren’t born well off, it’s pretty prohibitive. The steadily rising costs of education could be seen as the natural end result of a capitalist society–a product in demand will rise in price. Or if you are the sort to see conspiracies, it could be something else.

Those in power naturally want to stay in power. And if knowledge is power, the best way to keep it from getting into the hands of others, is to prevent the average person from being able to get an education.

The rich stay rich, and their kids stay rich and pay for a nice education, and so on. The poor stay poor and their kids can’t afford an education, and so on.

After all, if everyone was well educated, who would the rich have to exploit?

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Why do we hate the poor?

The plight of the Joads in this story makes me think of how we treat refugees, homeless people, and any other needy people in this country. The family in this story has been kicked off their farm by the corporation that owns it, and along with thousands of other families is fleeing across the country to California, where everyone has been told there is work to be had.

When they get there, though, everyone treats them like villains, looks down on them, tries to get them to move on, or just tries to exploit them for money or cheap labor.

It sounds really familiar to how we treat immigrants and refugees today. But in this story, the people even treat other American’s that way!

Why do we look down on people in need? Refugees and immigrants and homeless folk have gone through hell to get where they are, and then we spit on them and turn our backs. Why? Why do we put spikes on the ground so homeless cant sleep? Why do we remove all the benches from cities and kick people out of their tents and make it illegal to sleep in a car? They have it hard enough not having a home, but we’ve got to go out of our way to spend time and effort to make it worse for them? Is it human nature to be shit to each other? To distrust and hate someone who is at the worst, hardest point in their life?

Sometimes humanity disgusts me.

Horrors of the world

Rings of Saturn’s seemingly random topic hoping is all coming together, related in the big picture by every thought, every piece of history he talks about seeming to show how humans are terrible, or maybe that the world is terrible.

Aside from the overt bleakness of the historical stuff he talks about, there is a subtle kind of darkness overlaying everything, just in the way he describes things. Below is a section for example, when he sees some people below him at a beach:

I crouched down and, overcome by a sudden panic, looked over the edge. A couple lay down there, in the bottom of the pit, as I thought: a man stretched full length over another body of which nothing was visible but the legs, spread and angled. In the startled moment when that image went through me, which lasted an eternity, it seemed as if the man’s feet twitched like those of one just hanged. Now, though, he lay still, and the woman too was still and motionless. Misshapen, like some great mollusc washed ashore, they lay there, to all appearances a single being, a many-limbed, two-headed monster that had drifted in from far out at sea, the last of a prodigious species, its life ebbing from it with each breath expired through its nostrils.

There are many ways one could describe a couple having sex on the beach… this way of doing it is certain to create a strange, creepy feeling for the reader…

Mass shooting in [city], [number] dead

It is the deadliest shooting in US history, until next month.

Are the American people okay with this? Each week and month and year that goes by with nothing being done tells me that most are.

Imagine a world in which you can buy a tank at your local car dealership. Imagine in this world, that every month or so some crazy gets their tank on credit with no license or training, and that same day drives through his local neighborhood crushing cars and people and shooting houses until the military can get there to stop him.

Well, that is a lot of death and damage caused all the time, constantly, by crazy or evil or bigoted people getting into tanks.

But, we can’t do anything about that, can we? I need to have my right to buy and drive a tank responsibly if I want to. Not having to be licensed or trained or evaluated in any way when I want to go buy my second or third tank in the future, is much more important to me than making sure only responsible people own tanks. You see, if any kind of control over tank-buying is put in place, everyone might lose their right to own tanks at all!

It’s just something we have to live with, in a free world where everyone can own tanks and drive them in public.

Well you know what? I don’t want to live in a world where everyone can own their own tank, or rocket launcher or bandoleer of grenades. And I don’t want to live in a world where everyone owns a gun.

Call me whatever names you want, call me unpatriotic, call me a liberal snowflake, call me angry or scared or call me fascist or call me socialist. But the less tanks there are, the less crushed cars and destroyed houses there are. The less hand grenades there are, the less explosions there are. The less flame throwers there are, the less house-fires and melted people there are.

And the less guns there are, the less shootings there will be.

The world goes on

People you haven’t seen for a dozen years are doing interesting, exciting, boring, frustrating, amazing, awful things. They are making friends, having epiphanies, worrying over tough decisions, and maybe you pop into their head now and then, maybe more or less than they pop into your head.

The strange and huge world of other people’s lives is an endless thing that we can never know or comprehend except the edges, like how you can just barely grasp how huge the universe is if you tilt your mind at just the right angle.

We live in tiny bubbles of experience floating in a sea of other such bubbles, all connected and overlapping, but also isolated. Your world of people is different than mine or anyone’s. Your ecosystem of memories functions differently. You could step two feet and enter another persons world that is completely different from yours–different thoughts, different opinions, different jokes, different interpretations of events, different memories…

All it takes to cross bubbles, is a hello and a conversation…

Time stopping powers

Very often, unusually often probably, I wish I could stop time and just sit and read or write all day. Now I wonder why our world is such that I need to imagine fantastic powers for myself, just in order to read all day…

In the future, unless things change, even when we have robots and AIs to do all conceivable work for us that is needed to survive, corporations and those in power will still find ways to eat up all our time with work.

If AIs and robots are going to take up all the jobs (and they will) we need a society that doesn’t require money or work to live. It’s not the society we’re in now, I can tell you that much…

Dream for the collective

I feel like my purpose is to tell stories. But what kind of purpose is that? Isn’t it just a waste of time? A self-indulgence, or enabling of others to self-indulge? I disagree (of course, I would have to.)

I propose that stories serve the same purpose to society as dreams do to individuals. They are invented scenarios that allow us to imagine ourselves in situations we’ve never been in before. They allow us to prepare for happenings that we have no way of having the experience to deal with. George Orwell dreamed of a totalitarian world of horror, and now, because of his dream of a scenario that we’ve not experienced, we may be better prepared to deal with it if it comes our way. The same can be said for any other story dreamed into the collective consciousness of society.

Your ideas are not frivolous or pointless, you are a dreamer for the world. It’s your job not to hold back, and to put every crazy idea that you can think of out there for the rest of humanity to experience.

Go for it!