What Does Kate Brown Actually Believe In?

Brown

I can’t claim to be an ardent follower of Oregon state politics. I have however been following the Oregon Governor’s race with an increasing level of interest, because it seems like there’s an increasingly real chance that Kate Brown could be unseated by her Republican opponent, a man whose skin is made up of approximately 40% earlobe tissue and whose eyes have been replaced by LITERAL BEADS -a man whose campaign platform is based almost exclusively on eviscerating the state’s public pension program and gutting regulations on corporations. His name is Knute Buehler, and he sucks.

So why would Oregon, a blue state whose US Senators are two of the most reliably liberal in the nation, elect a man like Buehler over an incumbent Democrat? What is it about Kate Brown’s plan for her second term that has made voters consider putting someone else in the Governor’s mansion? Wait… actually, what IS Kate Brown’s plan? She’ll have the mandate of a second-term governor, and there’s a real possibility of a blue wave that is could boost Democratic numbers in the state legislature too. Surely she must have an ambitious agenda that will drive people to the polls, right? Actually, here’s what her campaign website: says:

  • Going forward, Kate will continue helping small businesses across Oregon thrive by cutting red tape.
  • Kate will continue to stand with working families by supporting policies that help give opportunities to all Oregonians.
  • Our state is at the forefront of a supply chain for an emerging technology, and we can leverage this opportunity to grow our a robust and globally connected, statewide economy.
  • Just as families have to keep to a budget to make ends meet, so does state government.
  • She convened a Task Force to review and propose options for making up to $5 billion in payments toward PERS costs. Made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, this group is considering the most cost-effective methods to save money while still remaining committed to our Oregon values.
  • Kate will continue to protect the progress that we have made to make reproductive healthcare accessible in Oregon.
  • Kate will continue to fight for the resources necessary to make sure every student enters school ready to learn, and stays engaged and on track throughout their education.

Two things jump out at me while reading through these. First, it’s clear that she’s not planning on DOING anything during her second term – she’s committed to keeping the lights on and that’s about it. Second, there’s not a single promise that she’s made that couldn’t be just as easily made by a Republican. That’s not because she’s going to implement Republican policies, mind you – it’s because all of her promises are so vague that they could be made by anyone, for any reason. A Republican could just as easily promise you that they’ll “stand up for working families” by voting to end Oregon’s status as a sanctuary state, for instance.  Knute could promise to “fight for the resources necessary” for Oregon students by destroying the state’s public employee pension plan and “re-investing” the money in schools, as he has actually proposed. He could promise to “help small businesses” by cutting the minimum wage. These phrases are meaningless, designed deliberately in a way that avoids taking genuine policy positions or creating a vision for the future.

Listen, I know that Oregon is a uniquely tough state to govern. When Republicans had some level of power in the 80s, they ensured that any Democratic Legislature would have one hand tied behind their back for the foreseeable future by requiring a 2/3 vote in the legislature for any kind of tax increase. The funding model that existed at that point was messy, and remains so, because no one has had the numbers to change it. That makes it hard for ANY Governor to promise ambitious new initiatives that would cost any kind of real money. So the state Democratic party has taken the most extremely Democrat position possible: “We can’t do anything about this right now, so why even mention that we might want to in the future?” So we’re left with an incredibly boring, technocratic, anti-aspirational gubernatorial campaign that inspires nobody and could very well propel a man who will do an incredible amount of damage into the Governor’s mansion. It’s the exact kind of campaign that Hillary Clinton ran against Donald Trump, and those results speak for themselves.

If Kate Brown loses to Knute Buehler, it won’t be because he’s a good candidate. It’ll be because people are struggling across the board and she promised to deliver them nothing to alleviate their suffering. It’ll be because she thought she could coast to a second term without making any policy commitments. It’ll be because she failed to offer a positive vision of a real future where the government can actually help people. It’ll be because she Doesn’t. Actually. Believe. In. Anything. And there’s a real possibility that we’ll all be worse off because of it.

(In case anyone is wondering, I’m still going to fucking vote for her)

I Just… I Can’t With This Shit

Trump Putin

Yesterday, President Trump besmirched America. He was weak. He took Russia’s side instead of the side of our vaunted intelligence agencies. It was unprecented, remarkable, a day which will live in infamy. It was.. I dunno, someone toss me a Churchill quote. Yeah, it was that. Definitely a big deal.

It’s hard to overstate the extent to which the media and political establishment’s language towards Russia has changed over the last year and a half. Vladimir Putin has been de facto leader of Russia for the majority of my lifetime, but only in the last couple of years has everyone decided at once that he is an urgent threat, an Enemy Who Must Be Dealt With. It’s so interesting to me how quickly the worm can turn, how much our military and intelligence agencies are still able to create and drive a narrative, and how quickly someone can become a supervillain once we decide that they should be judged as such.

Let me ask you this: to the extent that Russia (a land mass) can behave in certain ways, what exactly has changed about that behavior in recent years? Vladmir Putin has been been an asshole for as long as he’s been in charge of Russia. I actually pay attention to this shit, and I happen to remember the devastation that they unleashed on Chechnya in the early 2000s. I happen to remember when they invaded Georgia in 2008 and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.  Back then, we treated these events like we treat any global atrocity – we wagged our finger, told them to knock it off, and then went to bed.

Has Russia’s behavior changed over the last few years? Is their aggression in Crimea and Ukraine vastly different than the carnage they unleashed on Chechnya and Georgia? Does their involvement in Syria and their disregard for civilian casualties differ that much from our own? Maybe. But I can’t see the degree to which the change justifies our change in posture, our change in language. Because in the last year, we have adopted the language of war. The language of treason and sedition. The language of good vs. evil. And it’s genuinely frightening to me how quickly the American people accept these new narratives, which have the real potential to drive our politics for the foreseeable future at the expense of everything else, at the expense of things that actually matter.

What’s really missing from all of this is a sense of scale. Of all of the myriad of scandals of the Trump Administration, of all of their disgusting misdeeds, this is the only thing that our political culture is capable of funneling our energy towards. People in Flint still don’t have clean water. More than 2,500 migrant parents have still not been reunited with their children, and possibly never will be. Hundreds of thousands of people could die from starvation and disease in Yemen because of a war that our military is actively boosting. Republicans are ushering in a 20+ year Supreme Court reign that will likely overturn Roe Vs. Wade and successfully squash out any legislation that is remotely progressive, even if our sclerotic legislature could actually pass anything in that vein. In the midst of an economic recovery, real wages are literally declining. Health insurance “markets” are crumbling, as they are rapidly regressing to the pre-Obamacare norm, which is to say that more and more people are suffering at the hands of a machine that is literally designed to profit off of that suffering.

Despite all of that, nothing tickles the pickle of the American imagination like a foreign espionage scandal. The tone of media coverage over the past few days has been straight-up manic – like little kids on Christmas morning. It’s a sick conglomeration of our comic-book addled minds and our for-profit media landscape. So many people want to be part of something larger than themselves, a battle between good and evil, the decisive conflict of our times. And since the war on terror has run its course (Did we win? Does anyone give a fuck?), America wants for nothing more than a foreign menace stalking us at all times, hiding under our beds, hacking our very democracy.

Nothing good will come of this. And I don’t just say that as a devoted peacenik, which I proudly am. I mean, how can anyone have experienced the run-up to the Iraq War and not see the similarities here? Like, we’re just gonna anoint a new enemy and everyone’s gonna be cool with it? We’re all going to accept that as our new reality? We’re just going to repeat the words “Russian interference in our election” until we experience another war aneurysm? Do we really have to fucking do this?

Russia is a country that we will never defeat militarily. We will never occupy them. We will never force them into a more democratic government. We will never deliver the smackdown of Vladimir Putin that will cause him to retreat into a pool of his own tears and resign as Russian Premier. What we WILL do is…. well, everything we’ve always done since the end of the Second World War – those things that we do best when we are dealing with foreign menaces:  We’ll engage in aerial bombardment of supposed client states, killing countless numbers of civilians and sending their civilian infrastructure back into the stone age. We’ll overthrow governments. Literally hundreds of thousands of people will die. Oh, and at the tail end of the probability curve, there’s always the possibility of a nuclear fucking holocaust.

And if you think that the Trump Administration won’t sign up for this shit when push comes to shove, boy howdy you’ve got some surprises coming your way.

There’s Politics in Everything

This came up on my Facebook feed recently, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot:

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The think tank that my Facebook friend quotes above is called “The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.” If you peruse their webpage, you’ll find reams of policy papers about the necessity of cutting Social Security benefits, but nary a word about the regressive nature of the taxes which fund those benefits, which fall disproportionately on low and middle-income people. Not coincidentally, you’ll also find out that their board is made up almost entirely of former congresspeople who are now working in the banking and finance industry, no doubt pulling in millions of dollars a year. For these people, the most clear and present danger in American society is the possibility that the government may someday decide to actually meet its obligations by raising their taxes to ensure that everyone else has the basic standard of living that our country can clearly afford to provide them.

That stuff is all par for the course, I suppose. But here’s what really gets to me: He claims here that Social Security and Medicare are not  “partisan issues.” Millions of people depend on these programs every day for their literal survival, but this person’s advice – and the advice of the think tank who he’s quoting –  is that these programs need removed from the realm of politics. People need to put aside their petty needs like “putting food on the table” and “paying for cancer treatment” and trust that people in Washington know what’s best for them. It’s not about politics, they say. It’s about making tough choices and voting against your own interests. It’s about doing what’s best for the country. It’s about trusting your betters.

Social Security and Medicare are the most popular social programs ever instituted in this country’s history, full stop. Cutting benefits to these programs is vastly unpopular, which is why they have managed to survive for so long in their current form. The only people who support these kinds of draconian cuts are those who have no stake in the outcome – those who can rest assured that their Social Security check will only be a small percentage of their post-retirement income. These people make up a very small percentage of the American public and have vastly different interests than everyone else, so of COURSE they will tell you that cutting your benefits is not a partisan issue. Of COURSE they’ll tell you that these reforms are “common sense.” Because if they admit that people’s very lives and well-being are in the realm of politics, they’d have to admit that they are on the wrong side and are destined to lose.

In 2012, as part of my graduate program, I went to Washington DC with a group of classmates to learn about the process of making public policy. We visited the Brookings Institute, we met with Democratic and Republican representatives from Oregon, and went to a couple of different lobbying firms. To a person, they ALL talked about the necessity of cutting these social programs – the consensus was bipartisan and overwhelming. These policy discussions have been meticulously channeled into a limited number of possible actions by think tanks who are funded by the very people who benefit from keeping the parameters of that discussion the same. And that manages to filter down to professional-minded people who are interested in being Very Serious, who furrow their brow and talk about the necessity of being balanced, who think that the extreme right and the extreme left are somehow the same thing, who think that the most important thing you can do in politics is to avoid upsetting anyone. And up until this point these people have had a pretty clear hold on the politics of the Democratic party. You can judge the results for yourselves.

Here’s the deal – if you believe that the role of elected officials is to somehow make decisions that are deeply unpopular amongst the vast majority of Americans, but have been deemed “the right thing to do” by a small number of people who have been secluded in the literally delusional centers of power of DC politics for the majority of their lives – than you’re not a progressive. You’re not even a centrist. You’re a monarchist. It is fundamentally conservative to think that people need to put aside their personal wants and needs when they vote and take the word of the people who are already at the top. It is fundamentally antidemocratic to believe that people don’t know what’s best for them when every poll ever conducted on these programs shows that people don’t want their benefits to be cut and actually support raising taxes on the wealthy. It’s fundamentally elitist to believe that everyone needs to follow the advice of the people who are already in power.

On the other hand, if you believe that the role of government is to improve people’s lives, than it should be obvious to you that there is politics in everything. If you believe that the purpose of politics is to advance the interests of the people who do the voting, than you understand that “common sense” dictates that the government should be working to advance the interests of those very people. You have to be able to see that these interests are diametrically opposed to those of the people who are already at the top.

We are in the midst of a class war, and politics is literally the only weapon we have at our disposal. The primary goal of the 1% has been to convince the rest of us to lay that weapon down. They want us to believe that they have our interests in mind, that the budget deficit is somehow more important than putting food on the table or your ability to access health care when you need it. These people are actively work to dismantle every possible guarantee we have of a basic standard of living, and have been doing so for the duration of my lifetime. And they’ve made obscene amounts of money while all of this has been happening.

They are not to be trusted.

They are not listening to you.

They are not on your side.

You have to start advocating for your own interests. You have to start voting for people who do the same.

The New Joint

open kitchen

It’s a newer restaurant, but you recognize the aesthetic. It’s a small, “intimate” space. In fact, the lack of space is screaming at you, telling you how valuable the seat you’re occupying is, and the prices on the menu back it up.

Because it’s so cramped, you’re concerned that your conversations might bleed into those of the people next to you. But you needn’t worry about that – as soon as you sit down, you can’t hear anything. The music is loud, and the pace inside is frenetic. The dishwasher is running. There are plates being moved, pots and pans crashing. It’s an “open kitchen” design, so you can look on as the cooks, servers, and bartenders all work at breakneck speed. You marvel at their efficiency in such a cramped space, at how they never seem to slow down. There’s only one person making drinks, and he impresses you with both his speed and his attention to detail.

Luckily, you didn’t come here to relax. In fact, there’s nothing remotely relaxing about this experience. There’s a feeling of high anxiety throughout the joint. When you get up to use the restroom (It’s called a Wash Closet here), you’ll almost certainly be in someone’s way, so you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled and be ready to move out of the way quickly. Even in your seat, it seems like people are constantly trying to squeeze by you. The value of the space you’re sitting in is further reinforced by the cadre of people you see gathered by the entryway awaiting their turn to get a crack at the menu.

The workers are sweating away in front of you and getting something close to minimum wage from the people who own the place. You know – as they do – that their bread is buttered by the tips they make, and that knowledge brings you a level of satisfaction. You monitor them closely, and if they fail to meet your expectations – if you see them linger a little too long in the kitchen or if they get your drink order wrong – you’ll punish them by decreasing their take home pay. In this place, you’re not just a customer – you’re the employer. This knowledge seems to make the food taste better.

As you finish eating, you conclude that the waitstaff has performed admirably. Your food arrived in a timely fashion and was arranged with obvious attention to detail. You know that as soon as you exit the restaurant, you’re entering a world that makes you feel completely powerless, so you order one more drink and smile to yourself as you watch the bartender rub the lemon peel around the edge of the glass – something you didn’t even know you wanted until you saw it happen. That man just earned himself a good tip, you think.

You still feel like shit, and you’ll feel even worse in the morning. But you can’t wait to tell your friends about this place.

Fix Yourself

From the beginning of my time in the Real World™, I’ve been consistently shocked at the extent to which self help culture permeates every aspect of American life. From my days working in a grocery store to my days working in the classroom, from grade school to grad school, I’ve had it hammered into me that the world that exists a rung above me is fixed and unmoveable. I’ve been told that the decisions made above my station in life are what they are, and nothing that results from those decisions can be changed or fixed. I’ve learned, over and over again, that what I CAN fix is my attitude, my outlook.

Every time I think I’ve escaped the self-help bubble, I turn a corner to see it rearing its ugly head again. Over time, I’ve come to understand that this an integral part of how our society shifts responsibility for our collective problems to the individuals who are least responsible for them. Our energy for change is always directed inward and downward instead of outward and upward. It’s the grease that keeps this machine running.

I have to admit here that I have, in the past, directed a great deal of judgment at the people who gravitate towards self help culture. I’ve always found it odd that people can approach this kind of stuff – which is ultimately so repetitive and so limiting – and find some sort of revelatory value in it each time. There’s clearly a religious element in the whole venture, and at my worst moments you can always find me sneering at anything that even vaguely smells of religion.

But even moreso than the ritual of it all- the spiritual incantations, the meditative mindfulness, the practiced reactions to the world around us – there’s a fundamental faith in the rationality of the world around us. In this world, credit scores are an act of God and police are rational arbiters of all that is right and good in the world. In this world, anyone who works hard enough can become rich, and anyone who has sufficient belief in themselves can navigate the incomprehensible maze that our society has set up for them and somehow come out on the other end with their dignity intact. The fact that the mechanisms of this world punish people for failure to navigate its intricacies through depriving them of food, housing, and healthcare is an immutable fact of life. These mechanisms are a result of natural law in the same way that the rising and setting of the sun is. To maintain this faith, a person almost has to engage in religious rituals. A person has to assume that any problems they encounter are a result of their own personal defects.

Of course, the reality of our country’s economic structure isn’t exactly easy to stomach. The reality is that wealth and comfort are primarily reserved to those who are born into it, regardless of the effort they put in. The reality is that people who possess the worst character traits are are often ushered into positions of power through systems that are designed to limit opportunities for people of conscience. The reality is that with every day that passes, a person born into limited means is less likely to escape their social station than a person born the day before. And things have been heading inexorably in that direction – albeit at varying speeds – for the entirety of my life and that of millions of others. There simply aren’t many people who have the social and economic foundation built under them to function regularly in their daily lives with that knowledge and understanding.

So at the end of the day, people who are chasing self-help culture – the ones who go to the workshops, buy the books, and practice the rituals – are channeling their energy in the only way our society allows. And that pursuit is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. They are trying to tackle an impossible task – to change the very wiring of their brain and rid themselves of the nagging doubt about the world around them. Not only is that a tough mountain to climb, it’s the only one that they can see in front of them. And good for them for trying to conquer it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I agree with our society’s incessant need to shift responsibility from institutions to individuals. Self-help purveyors have their share of hucksters, ambulance-chasers, and those who profiteer off of human suffering – but what religion doesn’t? These purveyors are chasing what capitalism demands that all of us chase- a growth market. They’re selling, selling, selling to an audience that is only growing larger every day. And it makes sense that it’s a growth market. Right now, the expectations that we are placing on individuals to succeed are greater than ever in a world where there are objectively fewer opportunities to succeed than ever before. It makes sense, in this world, that people gravitate towards a philosophy that asks them to direct their energy inward instead of outward. It makes sense that people are yearning to maintain their faith in the world around them even as that world is proving itself to be woefully inadequate to the needs of its people. The alternative is scary as shit.

Goodnight Gorda

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Here’s some fun Gorda facts:

  • When I met her at the Humane Society, her name was “Bunny.” They found her in a barn and she was a mother to a single kitten, who they named “Bugs.” It was a very shitty name.
  • It took me almost two years to come up with a different name because I am both extremely uncreative and incredibly self-conscious about making decisions that are permanent.
  • The Humane Society almost prevented me from adopting her due to my living situation, but a nice lady who worked there changed her mind when they saw the way I snuggled with her and also maybe was swayed by the fact that I almost started crying when they told me I couldn’t have her.
  • The name Gorda was derived from watching “The Motorcycle Diaries,” which is a movie in Spanish about a young Che Guevara. At one point, Che calls his chubby friend “fatty.” I asked the person who I was watching the movie with to tell me what word he used, and it was “Gordo.” And so Gorda’s gender-appropriate and totally not fat-shaming name was born.
  • Back when I was in my early 20s and she was not geriatric, I was able to leave her alone in my apartment for several days at a time with a pile of dry food and a big bowl of water. I also left a window open so that she could wander in and out as she pleased. After I returned from one of those trips, a neighbor told me that he had been awakened in the middle of the night to something large and furry in his bed. As it turns out, Gorda had been so snuggle-deprived in my absence that she had crawled through one of his open windows, found his bedroom, and crawled into bed with him. She was not taking no for an answer.
  • As we all know, cat years progress much faster than human years, and I am actually able to pinpoint the exact moment that Gorda surpassed me in age. When I was living in that same apartment and still young and dumb, I came home late at night, coming down from a particularly intense mushroom trip. Immediately when I came downstairs, I could tell that Gorda was upset with me. She glowered down on me from her perch on top of the couch, judging me. It’s as if she was saying “I know what you’ve done, Stephen. How dare you take illicit drugs and then return to my home.” From that point forward, she became “Gorda the wise,” and she became my caretaker.
  • The Humane Society informed me in no uncertain terms that Gorda was not fond of other cats, and that was very true. But one day, my landlady (who lived above me) came home with a very sweet and tiny kitten, and we thought that maybe introducing her to Gorda would re-ignite some kind of motherly instinct inside of her soul. We placed them in front of each other, and Gorda sniffed the kitten twice before winding up with her right paw and smacking that adorable kitten as hard as she could three times. She fucked that kitten up.
  • Despite her hatred of cats of all sizes, Gorda had a particular affection for dogs. She never met one that she didn’t want to snuggle.
  • Over her last few years, her name became less apt as she lost more and more weight. My friend Sean came to visit from Billings a little while back and informed me that her new name should be “Emaciata.” He does not speak Spanish.
  • Whenever my nephews and niece came over, Gorda would go into hiding – either in a kitchen cupboard or in the basement. We were worried that she would do the same when we brought Simon home – but the opposite occured. Because we spent so much extra time sitting, lying down, in bed, or otherwise snuggling with Simon, she had a captive audience. And she never turned down an opportunity to join the snuggle pile, even as Simon started beating the shit out of her on a regular basis. If meeting a kitten didn’t reignite a motherly instinct, I think being around a human child did – she was always so gentle with him, even when he didn’t return the favor.
  • Gorda’s last week involved lots of ground raw chicken, extra snuggles, and plenty of tormenting from Simon, which she continued to tolerate.  Her last moments were spent in full snuggle mode, and she’s now taken up permanent residence in one of her favorite spots in the backyard under our big Dogwood tree.

I wasn’t going to write anything else – I was mostly just planning on posting pictures. But it’s worth saying that getting a cat was both one of the dumbest and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I didn’t think it through. I didn’t imagine it would be a 13 year commitment. I didn’t foresee how hard it would be to move around from place to place with a furry friend who viewed her litterbox as a more of a bullseye than a dartboard. Had I been able to see those things, I never would have taken her in. But it was so, absolutely, completely worth it that none of that stuff ended up mattering. 21 year-old me was an idiot, but that idiocy led me to one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And now, with Gorda gone, I’m that much farther away from being that kid who would make a decision like that. A decision that was 100% based on what’s in his heart with absolutely no practical considerations involved. Thinking about that kid, I’m shocked at how careless he was but amazed at how that carelessness didn’t always lead him in the wrong direction. I kind of miss him.

 

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Young Gorda

Gorda Hannah

Gorda ashamed

Gorda majestic

Gorda reaching

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I’m gonna miss my baby. Goodnight, sweet Gorda.

Homogenization Nation

There’s only one thing you’re sure of: You’re missing out. You’re doing something wrong and it’s time to adapt. You’ve decided to dress a little nicer and cut off some of the rough edges. You swear a little less and stop talking about politics. You’ve got to find some stability. You’ve got to make more money. You’re missing something.

You turn yourself into a brand. Your circle of friends becomes larger and ever-less intimate. That’s a good thing, because you’ve been told to view them as a source of potential income. You no longer hit them up because you want to hang out – you hit them up because you’ve got an exciting business opportunity for them. You’re gathering information on them, probing them for weak points. Your interactions are transformed into transactions. You’re always on point. You never let your guard down.

Your income has gone up over the last few years. That’s a good thing, because everywhere you turn there seem to be more and more people who are trying to separate you from that income. Your rent has gone up. Your most expensive purchases need to be replaced every year. The things you used to buy to save money now cost more because saving money is trending. New gatekeepers seem to be popping up everywhere to charge you a fee for the things you used to do for free.

In the world around you, your favorite establishments are closing and being replaced with boutiques and wine bars. The ones that stay open are getting glossy remodels and adding new locations on the other side of town. They now have a variety of merchandise for you to purchase. Miniature shopping malls have been placed between you and all of the activities you enjoy. All you have to do is walk through them (but you might as well buy something while you’re at it). Visible signs of poverty seem to be disappearing from your neighborhood. You don’t ask where those signs went – it’s probably just because people are doing better. Everything is being consolidated, homogenized. It’s relentlessly predictable and you wonder if you should find comfort in that.

Everyone tells you that confidence is key. If you want a bright future, you’ve just got to believe in yourself. Things are looking up, you tell yourself – there’s a windfall right around the corner. But before you turn that corner, there are all kinds of people who want to cash in on your windfall before it happens. You’ve already parted with all of your current income, so why not part with your future income too? They told you to bet on yourself – you’re good for it if you believe you are. You sign the promissory note. The only possible trajectory is up. All you have to do is believe.

In the virtual world, you’re now connected to your 750 closest friends on every conceivable social media platform – and you wouldn’t want to say or do anything to offend them. You’re becoming increasingly aware that your every click and keystroke is being monitored. You adjust your behavior accordingly.  Every search yields the same 10 results. Information is harder to come by, but at least shopping is really easy. The places in the virtual world that you used to go to relax now serve as constant reminders of all that you’re missing out on – the new shoes you could be wearing, the trips you could be taking. And it can all be yours in one click.

In your more pessimistic moments, you wonder why there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to hide anymore. You feel suffocated by all of this. Your life seems ever more devoid of genuine interactions with people, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe being authentic is a sign of weakness. Maybe passion is a sign of youth. You push all that aside. You’ve got to be on point. You don’t want to miss out.

The economy is doing well, you hear.  This is the part of the business cycle known as a “recovery.” And in your weaker moments, you wonder: If this is a recovery, why is it so fucking bleak out there?