You’re Complicit, I’m Complicit

Italian Greyhounds, Philip Reinagle [source]

But if you hate the system, and you reject what it represents, and you are against the hierarchies and societal organization it perpetuates, and already regret how it affected yourself or how it may eventually affect your own kids — you also have to reckon with how your participation, even your reluctant, conflicted participation, sustains it. Does that mean quitting altogether, or deciding your future family will opt out? Who knows. But it does mean that you start thinking about what’s at stake in leaving — and, more importantly, what’s at stake in staying.

Ann Helen Petersen, Against Kids’ Sports

Her argument is with kids’ sports, but the questions Ann Helen Petersen asks could just as easily refer to a host of other perplexities of modern life for which we have to ask ourselves, should I stay or should I go?

Do we quit the shitty job? Leave the unhappy marriage? Stay on Facebook? Move out of the red state? Do we write a manifesto and find a cabin in the wilderness, live like bears or feral cats? Do we blow up our lives — or blow up a dam — because we can no longer abide the way things are?

What’s at stake in leaving? What’s at stake in staying?

How do we decide what’s worth sticking around for, and what is just too much to bear?

It’s true that the vast stream of bullshit we wade through in the course of our daily getting-on-with-it is sustained by our (conflicted) pulling on of hip boots and venturing out into the murky water of systems we didn’t design and don’t necessarily feel good about supporting. We shop at supermarkets and drive to work, heat our homes with fossil fuels, wear clothes made in dodgy factories, pay taxes that support a trillion-dollar military budget, conduct our business within an economy that devalues most of us, human and non-human alike, and send our kids to schools that perpetuate cultural myths and economic fairy tales in order that we may keep doing it.

We didn’t start this fire, but we’re going to burn up in it all the same.

MLK said that the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, and perhaps it does. But the arc of human history is less an arc than a wheel that turns and turns in the widening gyre until things fall apart and we begin again.

And again.

It seems to me that our efforts matter not so much in whether they sustain a system over which we have so little power, but in how what we do affects the people and places and things we love. What’s at stake in leaving? What’s at stake in staying? Here. In this place, among these people. Beside this river.

It’s one place to start.

Supply Side Managers

The man in the interview was trying his best to make 
supply-side management sound like something 
you would choose to do with your one precious life,

while the show host wondered if students today 
were prepared for such complex work upon completing
their four-year college degrees after six years of 

secondary school and six more of primary school 
and two of pre-k, eighteen classroom years and still 
they ask if the students are ready, if there is not

more to be done to assure a steady supply of 
supply-side managers, and I thought of Derrick Jensen, 
explaining how long it takes to break the will of a child, 

when twelve years of compulsory schooling is insufficient, 
four more in service to the gatekeepers may do the trick, 
"for the exceedingly obstinate there is graduate school," 

after which they are prepared for almost nothing beyond 
the tower and a continued allegiance to the beloved institution, 
alas, it overflows with adjuncts now, devaluing everything,

though perhaps with their multiple doctorates they might 
one day land a plum job at Google, entangling algorithms 
into AI that will make us all obsolete. 

One can only hope.