ALCStudies Journal

Advanced Labor & Cultural Studies Web Site & Blog

Tag Archives: Hope

Good-Bye to All This

During my time in the bosom of the United States, I have experienced friendship and kindness. I have shared laughter. I have admired the creativity and talent and hard work of my friends and colleagues, and savored the majesty of my adopted country’s purple mountains , its flowing rivers and golden fields, its deserts and rocky shores.

I have tried to learn how to be blindly, incessantly optimistic, how to be obsessed with the idolatry of wealth and success, how to be entertained mindlessly and obliviously while being exploited and distracted from living by the marketplace ; how to claim self-reliance even as our friends and colleagues, family and institutions fail us; how to be resilient in our solitude and loneliness even in the midst of a pandemic and collective anxiety. Because of course God or the universe or Bill Gates always gives us what we need.

Now I am returning to be with my people, to share their fate. It is interesting to reflect on the above given the recent news in Ukraine: I doubt they would agree they are getting what they need. Have human beings learned nothing from history? Must we constantly become prey to the insecurities and resentment of individuals in each period of history who react by imposing their chaos on others?

I hope that hope will prevail, that sense will be redeemed. I look forward to waking up tomorrow individually and collectively free to savor our lives in a world where we can look forward to the future, rather than being trapped in fear and uncertainty of the present.

удачи (Best of Luck)

– DA

From a colleague:

The Honorable Nebenzia Vassily Alekseevich

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

As a US citizen and student of history I have an appreciation for Russia’s history up through World War I and to the present day. I also value your country’s rich literature and culture, including the work of Tolstoy and one of my favorite writers, Anton Chekhov. My desire would be to learn enough Russian to read at least a small amount of his work in the original. I hope I will be still afforded the opportunity in my lifetime to do this.

It is clear to me that Russian concerns for it’s security need to be acknowledged and negotiated in the context of present realities. The latter include the existence of NATO and Ukraine’s sovereignty. While the recent unilateral and violent invasion of Ukraine cannot be condoned, it is clear that Russian concerns need to be respected and addressed. The question I put to you is this: What would it take to provide practical reassurance for Russia and the parties involved in a way that is sustainable? Has this been communicated? While it seems out of the power of ordinary citizens such as myself to achieve a resolution, I think you will agree that it is in the interest of everyone’s welfare for those bearing responsibility to achieve such a rapprochement sooner rather than later.

We Need Some Human Help

Welcome to the Valentine’s Day installment.

We navigate our days these days watched and prodded by our non-human talismans of technology1. These constant companions prompt us with questions or suggestions under the guise of being interactive. One not-so-subtly pops up on my phone lately, like an annoying partner in an old comedy routine (Didya see, didya see? What? Huh? What? Huh?), with the ironic phrase We need some human help.

Knowing our days are numbered to a suddenly-definable sum (whether the Biblical three-score and ten, shorter or longer) focuses our attention remarkably on what is important and what is not. Having been informed that I am scheduled to leave this earth sooner than I planned, I confess to a certain sensitivity to having my time wasted. In the past year I have confronted what seems more than my share of dysfunctional officials, health insurance that fails to reassure, and medical care that feels anything but caring. I know I’m not the only one facing an individual Gethsemane, but since when has that been a real consolation? I have watched my friends and acquaintances at home and abroad wishing the cup would pass for all of us: the lady whose son was diagnosed with schizophrenia last year, a former colleague staying in a dissatisfying job for the health insurance, men and women seeking love and connection amidst the wasteland and darkling plain of fraught relationships. For some it proves too much to endure. We try to live our lives with a modicum of peace and happiness amidst Dickensian bureaucracy allied with bad technology, dysfunctional workplaces [bullshit jobs, ‘open’ offices], alienated lives and absurd trappings of so-called civilization. Human help indeed.

In your life you will know trouble, Jesus said, a phrase curiously absent from the dogma of positive thinking. Like too much sugar, being optimistically (if not relentlessly) positive can sweeten the appreciation of life or make it almost intolerable. Troubles exist in our lives whether we are rich or poor, privileged or marginalized, mentally-challenged or on the genius scale.

There are plenty of reasons to feel cynical and hopeless amidst the dehumanizing juggernaut of technology and capitalism, including an apparent media obsession with bad news and human failure. But being optimistic does not mean suspending our critical faculties or our humanity. I think it’s about time we fessed up, set aside our fear (or meanness or just plain obliviousness which technology so easily aids and abets2) and did what we can to ameliorate or sympathize with, rather than marginalizing, fellow human beings.

I don’t much care if you text, blog, tweet, e-mail or use a carrier pigeon. Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes writes about the dilemma of globalization and the need for human (and local) connection. Globalization and technology used exclusively in the service of profit threaten to undermine our sense of agency and make individuals feel expendable. If community is to be more than a marketing ploy and love not just a slogan, the primary job each of us in this world of our creation is to take back hope from the ashes and connect to our own hearts and the hearts of others . ### — DA

1See Shoshanna Zuboff’s recent, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

2See emotional deskilling.

Attachment & Being Human

I’ve seen a lot of advice lately against getting ‘too attached’ — to people, desires, hopes. Is there’s a gauge like a radiation badge to measure how much is enough, or too much? Is our chief end to control our unruly natures and turn our emotions on and off like robots.1)

Emily Dickinson on Hope

Emily Says —

Something bugs me about non-attachment as a blanket answer to all human desire for connection, never mind the notion of karma. These can become unthinking dogma like anything else. The following nails something self-evident, however much we try to deny it, about our desire to connect:

… It is in our biology, in the fabric of us, to connect to other human beings, and anything which tries to insert shame and doubt into that instinct is bound to always twist us… If the thought, “I am happy right now”, can never occur without an accompanying, “And I am just delaying my ultimate fulfillment in being so”, then what, essentially, has life become? I’ve seen it in action – people reaching out for connection, and then pulling back reflexively, forever caught in a life of half-gestures that can’t ever quite settle down to pure contemplation or gain a moment of genuine absolute enjoyment.Dale DeBakcsy, New Humanist

The idea of non-attachment is useful in the right context. But we are human. We do grow attached to kids, loved ones, hopes, pleasures, ideas, beliefs pursuits large and small.2 Also toxic things. There are a lot of mixed messages in the Buddhist, Christian and New Age traditions. Maybe our goal should be to be more choosy about holding on and letting go and how. And savoring and enjoying worthwhile attachments while we’re here. And not putting so much energy and effort into stupid and harmful ones. — DA

1See most religion, utopian experiments, contemporary psychology, scientific futurism, psychotropic medication, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

2E.g. Wallace Shawn’s appreciation of a cold cup of coffee in My Dinner With Andre

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