Tag Archive | mortality

UBI: Manna Doesn’t Fall From the Sky

While there are obvious similarities between the Universal Basic Income and the Minimum Wage, there is also a difference that causes the former to be immeasurably more stupid than the latter. The MW, of course, is a legal guarantee that one’s labor will have a certain value; the UBI is the guarantee that one’s existence will have a certain value.

It’s absurd, stupid, and another example of how our confused species has enjoyed luxury so great that we’ve forgotten we live in a universe where it’s an organism’s responsibility to secure its own survival.

I voluntarily provide my cats with a UBI. I’m not kidding, and anyone who thinks I’m kidding has missed the point. Nothing is required of them, and each day they’re provided with food, water, air conditioning, medical care, and a roof over their heads. This is precisely what the UBI is meant to assure people.

While I’ve undertaken this as my responsibility, the fact remains that they are subsisting entirely off my productivity. My labor acquires food, and so they don’t have to expend their own labor hunting mice in the surrounding fields. That I refill their water bowl means they don’t have to chase down water sources. Whatever else is true, it costs me to do these things, and it requires no more effort from them than to get their fat asses to the food bowl.

Even so, I don’t owe this to anyone. There are millions of cats to whom I give nothing, simply for practicality’s sake: if I spent all my time chasing down stray cats to take care of, I’d have no time to secure the money I use to buy the stuff they need. And though it really doesn’t take long for me to buy a can of cat food, it remains true that someone has to put in the effort to get my cats something to eat. It’s easier for me to work a few minutes and buy what they need than it is for them to go out and find dinner, water, and a place to stay; moreover, they are incapable of getting health care for themselves. It also remains true that food is not going to magically appear for them.

This isn’t true of humans. It’s no easier for me to go to college and establish a career than it is for anyone else to do it. The ease with which I, being a human, can acquire the stuff my cats need and want means less energy is expended when I simply take care of it. Additionally, it’s an obligation I chose to take on voluntarily, because I like them and they’re my friends.

In the grand scheme of things, I actually had a harder time securing a college degree and a career than the average person. Yet advocates of the UBI don’t care. Part of my productivity should, they argue, be siphoned off and used to secure things for other people. After all, manna doesn’t fall from the sky. My cats may not realize it, but their food bowl isn’t magical–I have to actually expend effort earning the money to buy their food. It’s not free food. It’s just free to them.

So let’s drop the bullshit for a moment and call things what they are.

It’s Socialism. It’s entitlement. It’s this notion that one is entitled to the necessities of survival, and that it’s okay to enslave other people and command them to provide one with food, water, and other things.

Bullshit. It’s backward. It’s called “slavery.”

There is no escaping this. That food, that water, that electricity, that doctor, that pharmacist… All of that stuff is other people’s labor. The doctor is a human being, not a mechanical dispensary of diagnoses. The farmers, the biochemists, the nurses, the coal miners–these people are all entitled to be paid for their labor. They must be, because the idea that it’s okay to make them work for free is unequivocally called slavery. If you can put a hundred people to work in a nightmarish coal mine and then not pay them because no one has paid you for your coal, then you don’t have a hundred employees–you have a hundred slaves, and you are simply the Enslaved Slave Master, enslaved and commanded by others to command other slaves. You’d be the ultimate Uncle Tom: the slave given a prestigious position and power over other slaves.

It can be taken a given, then, that the owner of the coal mine and the coal miners should be paid for their labors. “But it’s so useful to the function of society!” can’t be used as an argument to justify refusing to pay them, because people once said the very same thing about cotton as a justification for slavery. “Cotton is critical to the function of society and to the economy!” people claimed [which, it’s worth mentioning, if this was truly the case, then people would be willing to pay enough for it to keep the industry alive without slavery]. Perhaps doctors do provide a service to society that is so extremely useful, but it doesn’t matter–the utility of the service a person provides cannot be used as an argument for their slavery.

Someone has to put in the productivity to earn the money to pay the coal miner, the doctors, the farmers, and everyone else. Again, this is because manna doesn’t fall from the sky. We live in a universe that pretty much never stops trying to kill us. Life is born with an expiration date. That expiration date can be pushed back by eating, drinking, and taking care of oneself, but it cannot be postponed indefinitely. The only thing a living being is entitled to… is death.

It’s easy to forget this, especially in western nations, where food and water are so abundant. A newly born infant, however, is going to die in just fewer than 48 hours if someone doesn’t provide it with food and water. We could certainly justify making the argument that it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide the helpless infant with the necessities of survival, much in the same way that my choice to take in two cats came with the responsibility to ensure their well-being, but the entire reason the parents may be required to provide the food and water is because the infant will die if it doesn’t get it. By being born at all, the infant is sentenced to death, and it becomes the responsibility of the parents not to ensure survival but to postpone death until such time as the infant is old enough and capable enough to postpone their own death.

Attrition is part of the universe. We are mortal beings. Starvation, malnutrition, disease, dehydration, and countless other things are literally trying to kill us around the clock. The very moment we lapse in our responsibility to stave off these bringers of death is the very moment they overtake us. Life itself is trying to kill you right now. It’s the reason you’ll become hungry and thirsty today. It’s the reason you might catch a cold. At this very moment, life is trying to kill you, and it requires effort and energy to stave off its victory. If you do nothing–if you simply sit there and do nothing–you will die, with 100% certainty. Our efforts to eat don’t assure immortality; they postpone mortality.

Energy must be expended. Someone must use their labor to keep you alive. Ideally, that person is you. No one has to take care of me and ensure that I have food, because I’ve gone out and secured my food in the way that any healthy, sane organism has to be able to do because the very essence of life is constantly trying to kill that organism. This is true of literally everything in our universe. The passage of time ensures the destruction of everything and everyone, from planets to humans, and the best anything and anyone can do is expend energy to postpone that moment. Stars expend this energy through nuclear fusion; humans expend this energy by taking jobs. These are the most basic aspects of our reality, and they cannot be ignored with good feelings that are meant to obfuscate systemic slavery.

Effort is required simply to stave off one’s own destruction, because the universe is trying to kill everyone, and because if that energy isn’t expended, then death is imminent.

The Sword of Damocles constantly hangs over our heads. This is literally what it means to be mortal, to have a finite existence. We must strengthen the string by which the sword hangs, because the moment we fail to is the moment the sword will fall and kill us. If we choose to just lay there, then gravity and friction will take over, the twine will tear, and the sword will break free. Only by constant effort can we prevent that, and only temporarily with our very best efforts.

The universe doesn’t owe us anything, and I certainly don’t owe anyone anything. I expend my energy keeping my sword from falling. Coming up to me and demanding that I use some of my energy keeping them alive so that they don’t have to is parasitism, slavery, and statism. That’s exactly how we ended up with the state in the first place, and how it became our responsibility, as productive members of society, to provide ancient kings and lords with food so that they didn’t have to toil in the fields.

People call this UBI shit progress–it’s quite clearly not. Having a class of people who sit in their homes with another class of people bringing them food and water? We’ve been down that road before: it’s called serfdom. In feudal times, that lord had to eat, after all. Someone had to work in the field to grow the food. The lord, who didn’t want to do it, instead used force and violence to force people who did work in the fields to bring him food. To say today that we should revisit this idea is the opposite of progress. Whether it’s someone who calls themselves a lord using knights to force everyone to give a portion of what they have for the lord’s benefit, or someone who calls themselves a progressive using police and the state to force everyone to give a portion of what they have for the progressive’s benefit, it’s still just feudal serfdom, and we’ve been down that road before.

Having a larger part of the population make up the unproductive parasitic class of lords, whose defining feature is that they use force to acquire necessities from productive classes, hardly constitutes progress. It simply means that the lowly peasants who are productive must pay the lords a greater tax, because now there are more lords. Whereas feudal times saw fewer than 1% of the population being titled lords parasitically siphoning resources from the productive classes, modern UBI times would see huge sections of the population setting themselves up as lords parasitically siphoning resources from the productive classes. Instead of a member of the productive class paying 65% in taxes to sate the lord’s greed, the member of the productive class has ten times the number of lords and has to pay 95% in taxes.

“Progress”

Perhaps.

Progress down the Road to Serfdom, but that kind of progress won’t take us anywhere else.

Oh, Death.

That’s so Die Eier Von Satan-ish, plus the awesome vocals of Jen Titus. Truly an awesome piece of music.

Anyway.

John Casseus died. Casseus isn’t actually his last name, but I’m changing it out of respect for his wife and family. He was the owner of a Wine & Spirits store nearby, one of the most successful businesses in the state of Mississippi, in fact–go figure. He was also one of my clients, and a very good one. Regular, and he always paid his invoices on time, never disputed the prices. He actually wasn’t my client; he was my colleague’s client, but I did probably 75% of the work there, and the lines between my company and my colleague’s company have gotten extremely blurred.

John died Saturday morning. Evidently, he just never woke up. I’m guessing sleep apnea, because he looks and seems like the type of guy who has a severe snoring problem–don’t ask me what that means, because I couldn’t explain it–and that’s often a sign of sleep apnea. Dying in the middle of the night while being an otherwise healthy adult, though, is an even stronger sign of sleep apnea. I have sleep apnea, and it sucks. You never feel rested. I’m told people normally feel rested and rejuvenated when they wake. I wouldn’t know anything about that. Really, when I wake up I feel like I just died.

And John did die.

John was a great guy, and one of the few people I trusted and respected absolutely. I was having a bad day once and still had to go by his house to do some tech work for him. My colleague and I have different standards when it comes to customer service, so when I say “I treated him like shit that day,” it’s more like what you would expect “average service” to be from most people. And I felt horrible about it. I wasn’t gone from his house for ten minutes before I was texting him to let him know that I had just treated him like shit and that I knew he deserved better than that. I explained that I clearly needed to clear my head, so I couldn’t return that day, but that I would return the next morning and provide him the level of service that he deserves.

That text message changed things between John and me. He’d always respected me, and we discussed politics and Ron Paul extensively–he was also a Ron Paul supporter–but that text pushed him over the top. My colleague later that evening reported that it brought tears to John’s eyes and that he had the utmost respect for someone who could say “I screwed up, and you deserve better, so here’s what I’m going to do to fix it.”

That’s what’s powerful about apologies, isn’t it? There are two types of apologies: sincere ones and fake ones. A sincere apology has three parts:

  1. The apology itself: “I’m sorry.”
  2. Admission of guilt: “I was wrong.”
  3. Attempt to fix the mistake. “Here’s what I will do to make things right.”

A lot of people say that most people forget #3, but that isn’t true. It’s not a real apology if it lacks number 3–it’s pacification, an attempt to weasel out from the apology. A sincere apology contains #3. So keep that in mind going forward; when someone offers you an apology, pay close attention to see if they are truly apologizing and are genuinely sorry, or if they’re just trying to manipulate you into forgiving them without their having to actually do anything. It doesn’t matter what has to be done to make things right, and it doesn’t matter if you require that of them or not; if they don’t make the offer, then they’re not sincere.

John and I didn’t actually talk much after that, because I moved to Vegas shortly thereafter, and there wasn’t much going on at his store through the latter half of last year. It wasn’t much fun working for John, though, for two primary reasons. First, he’s almost obsessive compulsive. As a sidenote, I hate how “OCD” has become a new buzzword thrown about by people with idiosyncrasies who have no idea what OCD actually means; I’m not using it in that way. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t claim to “have OCD” about something.

To give you an idea of what borderline OCD actually looks like, John’s store operates with a server that is running Windows 2000, and his point-of-sale machines run Windows 98. He refused to upgrade to something new, primarily because of the cost but also because he didn’t want to. In fact, when one of his POSs died and he had such a hard time finding replacements, he went ahead and ordered nine more of the things so that he would be able to use them for the next 20 years at least. Yeah. This dude has nine Windows 98 point-of-sales sitting in his back office.

He resisted change, and in many ways working for him was like working for an elderly client. These people require that their desktop resolution be the same, their bookmarks be exactly where they were, and the steps necessary to do things never change; if they change even slightly, they will let you know. The day I switched him from using Internet Explorer to using the proprietary Specco software to watch his in-store DVR and security camera feeds while off-site will always be remembered as the Day I Learned Patience.

But we had to get him off Internet Explorer, because the DVR needed a firmware upgrade that we couldn’t actually install for stupid, complicated tech reasons, which left him being able to use only Internet Explorer 9 in order to view the security camera footage. That would have been okay, if webpages like Yahoo and Google weren’t constantly prompting him to update to a “more recent browser to improve [his] experience!” Every 2 weeks, it never failed, either my colleague or I had to make a trip to John’s house or store to uninstall an IE11 update that he did because he was not able to view the live camera feeds afterward.

So we tried moving him to Firefox and Chrome, telling him to only use Internet Explorer to view the security cameras. Well, in hindsight we might as well have told him that the “f of x as x approaches infinity is 2x over y squared,” because it was just a day later–just a day later–that he was texting me to tell me that he couldn’t view the cameras any longer. My apology had already been made by this point, and my colleague and I had already had numerous conversations about the issue, so I was kind and cordial about the whole thing.

I was a jerk that one day–and by most standards, I wasn’t a jerk, just a typical tech–because I was having a bad day anyway. I’ve never lost sight of how it feels to be an ordinary person, largely helpless in the face of all this technology, and utterly powerless to do anything about it when it doesn’t work. The average person is helpless when something goes wrong, and the people like John and the elderly become almost paralyzed when it happens. They hate it, deep down inside, and it’s written all over their actions and words. They hate that they don’t understand this thing that is such an integral part of their lives, but they simply don’t understand it.

I’m pretty good with analogies, I think, and I explained to John that the web browser is like a car. Internet Explorer is Chrysler, Google Chrome is a Chevrolet, and Firefox is a Ford*. They are vehicles, and he uses them to drive to the store–websites are the stores he wants to go to. His DVR system was a weird and unusual store, and he could only drive to it with one particular vehicle–the Chrysler, Internet Explorer. Of course, the real situation is more complicated than that, since it’s not “to the store” that browsers drive: browsers get the blueprints of what the store should look like, and then the browser builds the store, but the analogy was good enough to convey it to John. And I was happy with that, patted myself on the back, and was sure that we wouldn’t have the issue again.

Nope.

We had the issue again.

Not everyone has a freaking college degree in this field, though. I don’t begrudge anyone for not understanding aspects of technology–they provide me with work, after all–and I generally don’t mind the many ways that this ignorance manifests. With John, it manifested in a need for everything to always stay the same. C’est la vie.

But that’s John as an employer, more or less. It wasn’t strictly business, and that’s the wonderful thing about working outside the confines of a corporation: you can get to know clients on a more personalized level, and I’ve spent a great deal of time at John’s freaking enormous and beautiful house. And though I was working through these visits, it was more like “Hey, I’m about to smoke a bowl. Do you want a hit before you start messing with that laptop?”

I don’t smoke weed. Aside from the handful of occasions I did it in Vegas because I was repeatedly hit with peer pressure until I did it–seriously–I haven’t smoked weed in about three years. I don’t have anything against weed–or any drugs, except meth, coke, and heroin. Those are the Big Three. I detest those three drugs. But I don’t care if people want to smoke weed everyday, or if they want to take rolls everyday. Shit, I love rolls. They’re the most wonderful things human beings ever invented. Rather than being illegal, they should be required monthly dietary supplements. And before you shoot someone during a war, you should have to take 2 triple stack yellow dolphins with them.

I have a song called Swimming With Yellow Dolphins. Now you know why those dolphins are yellow. 😉

Ecstasy is great. No, really. It is. it’s wonderful, spectacular stuff. But I still haven’t done any in 3 years or so, simply because… I grew up. Life went on. That’s one of my biggest worries about one of my friends, that she still seems to be stuck in a 23 year old mindset. Sure, going to a music festival once or twice a year to do some shrooms, rolls, and acid aren’t going to destroy your life or brain. And I’m all for people continuing to do that after the “Time To Grow Up Age.” But anything more than that, after the Time To Grow Up Age… is refusing to grow up. Is it any wonder that she is without a job, phone, car, or stable place to live?

Well, before I got off onto all that…

For many months, John and I emailed and texted regularly discussing politics, and that was how I mostly gained his respect. I know this American politics thing pretty well–much better than the average American does. I know it so well that I called back in November that the election would be “Trump v. Hillary, Trump wins”. Watch me be proven correct. You heard it here first–Aria DiMezzo calls the 2016 election! President Donald Trump. I’m not advocating Trump; I’m simply pointing out that this is what’s going to happen.

John hated the Fed just as much as I do and was increasingly Libertarian himself, and he supported Ron Paul. Not as loudly as I did, but he did support Ron Paul. It was fun to discuss that sort of thing.

He was really the type of guy who would go above and beyond to show gratitude, even to the point where it would occasionally get awkward. With technology, he had the lamentable tendency of talking down himself, calling himself an idiot, and things like that. Can I just say, please… Please don’t tell your I.T. technician that you’re an idiot when it comes to computers. What do people expect us to reply with? That immediately puts us into a delicate situation where we have to find a way to blame the technology, not the person, and that’s usually difficult to do because, yes, 99% of computer problems exist somewhere between the keyboard and the chair.

“No, you’re not… This software just isn’t very intuitive.” “No, you’re not… Microsoft just doesn’t know how to make a reliable operating system.” “No, you’re not… That really shouldn’t have happened.” “No, you’re not…”

I don’t want to be in the business of building up people’s self esteem. I’m not a motivational speaker because I don’t have the patience for that. If someone has self-esteem issues, then I’m the last person they need to be around, because I’m not going to coddle them. I won’t be a jerk, but at best people usually get some sort of ambivalent, non-committal response from me.

This also made John difficult to work with, because at some point you run out of ways to blame the technology for the person using the technology clicking Update for the nine billionth fucking time.

I doubt this post has at all come out the way I intended. All of these are positive memories, even if they don’t sound like it. When I talk about the Internet Explorer fiasco with the DVR, it’s with a smile on my face. A bit of an eye roll and acknowledgement of the pedantic regularity, like when a child says something silly.

I’ll miss you, John. Respect.

Inner Demons

But no one who knew John can deny that the man was clearly tormented by inner demons. In many ways, I suspect that death is a release from him, because I don’t think I’ve ever talked so extensively with such a tortured soul.

Naturally, he was an alcoholic, and he drank nearly $17,000 of his inventory last year, to give you an idea of what I mean. “Alcoholic” should be the last characteristic to ever appear in the bio of a liquor store owner, but he had gotten his drinking a little under control–or so everyone said. I’ll never forget the day, however, that I spent about 3 hours at his house working on various things, and he seemed to have always just used mouthwash. Drinking mouthwash, of course, is one of the things that alcoholics are notorious for doing after they’ve “quit” drinking. Because on the surface, they always have such a convenient excuse–what’s wrong with wanting fresh breath, after all?

Every indication is that John and his wife partied hard in their younger days, to the point that references to quaaludes are everywhere in his life. That’s fine, of course–I partied pretty hard in my younger days, too. But something always continued haunting John, and I never knew what it was. He always seemed to be white-knuckling it through life. I’m not trying to tarnish his name, but I am worried that the inner demons played a role in his death.

He never discussed those demons with me or my colleague, and other than his wife we were pretty much among the closest people in his life who weren’t his employees, so it’s unlikely that he ever discussed them with anyone. That’s precisely how inner demons kill.

We are as sick as we are secretive.

* There’s no significance in why I picked these car manufacturers for the browsers. It was completely arbitrary.