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Get a Grip

2017 May 17
by Ian Welsh

And lower the drama.

Yeah, the world system is broken, and yes, we are due for a series of catastrophes which will be apocalyptic for many. It’s already been apocalyptic for a lot of species, and there’s no cosmic calculus which says that humans are immune: The top of the food chain usually dies in great die-offs, actually.

But this stuff is in the future. Today, the majority of people are substantially as well off as they were in 2015. I doubt anyone reading this is doing so from, say, Yemen.

Trump is not the worst leader to ever lead a country, and so far he hasn’t done anything as bad as what either Bush (Iraq) or Obama (Libya) did. Of course, you’re probably American and may be scared of losing your Obamacare, but war is worse than that. It’s just that, hey, you’re American, and America is supposed to do the worst crimes to people overseas or to blacks, hispanics, and poor whites in dank hole prisons where you can’t hear them scream, where you can’t see their agony and degradation.

Now, of course, if your personal life is going to shit due to your personal economy, health, or social relationships, well, that’s bad, and that may even be related to politics (in the broader sense, it almost certainly is), but most people are about as well off as they were before Trump.

As I have pointed out repeatedly, people during WWII still managed to love, find time to be happy, write novels, and so on. This isn’t WWII, it isn’t the Mongol Invasions or the An-Lushan rebellions (far worse than WWII compared to the world population at the time, by the way).

If you’re basically healthy, have food, a soft warm place to sleep, and aren’t ruled by a tyrant in your daily life, well, life is basically fine–assuming no one you love is suffering hugely.

That was true two years ago, ten years ago, and one hundred years ago.

Unless you’re reading from Yemen or Syria or something, get a grip on yourself. Things are going to get far worse than this, and if you’re not too old and reasonably healthy, you’ll likely be here for at least some of it.

If you’re flying apart at this, then how will you handle catastrophe when it actually arrives?

Use this as an opportunity to learn equanimity or toughness (the two are basically the same), and how to be good to those around you even when things are somewhat shitty. When everything does go bad for your part of the world, will you keep it together and be a source of warmth, love, and competence? Or will you be broken?

It’s perfectly human to fear, and sadly human to live in fear of a future that isn’t here yet.

But it’s no way to live.


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39 Responses
  1. May 17, 2017

    It 1999, the peak of our world’s power – we just what another chance at it.

    Of course we are not going to get it – but it is what we want.

    Now back to Zermelo’s Axiom of Choice, and my chance at fame…

  2. realitychecker permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Old saying: If you can keep your head when all around you seem to be losing theirs, perhaps you just don’t understand the situation. 🙂

  3. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 17, 2017

    realitycreator is right.

    Just Ask Umbrella Man & His Friend

  4. May 17, 2017

    There is no grip to get. But you already knew that.

  5. Arthur permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Excellent post. Maybe it’s because I’m sixty-two not twenty-two that I find this hyped up heat to be pretty silly stuff. Of course, Trump is a moron and much of this could’ve been avoided, but it wasn’t and here we are. The United States will break up much like the Roman world did lo so many years ago. Something will come out the other end. Some things from the past will be dimly remembered. Most of what we think is so important now won’t even make it that far.

    I’m taking Ian’s advice. A little volunteer work at my local animal shelter, trying to be a good husband, helping those in the family I can, a good book or film with a glass of wine. . .oh, and enjoying a challenging of Texas Hold ’em poker.

  6. Arthur permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Typing too fast. . .challenging game of Texas Hold ’em poker.

    Sorry about that. Take care.

  7. ibaien permalink
    May 17, 2017

    I think a lot of it, for we millenials, is that we’re becoming secular Millenials – the drama is a cry to ‘come quickly, lord Jesus’. living every day of your life knowing the best days are past and it’s all inconceivable hardship ahead is existentially exhausting. better trump &c. send tanks into the streets so we can at least face down something tangible.

  8. May 17, 2017

    I didn’t think it was about what Trump has done or even will do, but rather about the fear of what effect Trump having been President while being Trump will have overall — and the tantalizing feeling that there might be a way to avoid it.

  9. Joscha permalink
    May 17, 2017

    I enjoyed reading this text, and I largely agree. Perhaps a bit counter intuitively, the material living conditions (unless they are acutely abject and you suffer pain due to hunger, wounding, disease, grief, loneliness, uncertainty or loss of meaning) are not the best predictor of individual happiness. In a well-calibrated brain, pleasure and pain are not indicators of how well civilization is doing, but of how well you are doing under the circumstances. I think the pain of a Swiss banker that commits suicide due to loneliness and loss of meaning is as real as the happiness of a poor Bangladeshi who had a good meal with family and friends. This creates an interesting tension: should we strive for maximizing the number of surviving children and lived years, or the creation of living conditions that are compatible with the evolutionary makeup of our ancestors (which we largely share)? There is probably no answer to this, and the question is moot, because what happens on the ground is best explained by evolutionary dynamics, in which economic (and not moral) forces are the most decisive ones.

    I do agree that civilization has managed to cheat entropy in a big way instead of building something sustainable, and entropy is going to catch up with us, and it is not going to be fun.

  10. Cheryl permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Ian…..can you clarify what you consider as not too old?

  11. Red permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Ian, the world is more than US 🙂

  12. Ian Welsh permalink*
    May 17, 2017

    Yes, in general people’s happiness tracks their progress–how well they are doing compared to the past, and what they think their future prospects are. If things are getting better, people are happy.

    What I’m suggesting is to concentrate more on today, and one’s actual circumstances. It is a better method of being happy, especially when what one fears about the future is not in one’s control. (One can, alternatively, fool oneself into thinking it is, but then the fall is harder later on.)

    Cheryl: depends a lot on your health. I think if you’re 60 or so, and in the first world you stand a decent chance of avoiding the worst of it, especially if you have a decent retirement coming up. Could be wrong.

    Stuff will get worse the longer you live, in terms of the ecology. Politics is harder to determine, I think in some countries we’ll see a positive reversal in 2020/24.

  13. Red permalink
    May 17, 2017

    You should leave some hope for those of us that are on the outside 🙂 So get a grip, I need you.

  14. jackiebass permalink
    May 18, 2017

    Trump hasn’t been president long enough for his policies to personally effect people. Give him and the republican congress a couple years and then people will begin to personally be effected. Unfortunately when republicans no longer rule it will take a long time to undo the damage. Just look back at Bush II. After 8 years of Obama things just started to look up. Now we are back to what we had with Bush II.

  15. fredcdobbs permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @Stephen Miller Band

    Many think that umbrella man and his friend understood that particular situation all too well.

  16. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 18, 2017

    fred, you are correct.

    After reading realitycreator’s comment, I realize he was being coy and intended for it to be facetious and to be read incorrectly as I read it.

    I like my incorrect reading of it and that incorrect reading of it, intended by realitycreator, is my point, the point you have just clarified.

    Umbrella Man & his Friend are undaunted by the Purposefully Inculcated Chaos, perhaps, and more than likely I think, because they understand the Chaos and know they have nothing to fear but fear itself. Their disposition is likened to, “ho hum — just another uneventful day like all the rest — why must these mere mortals always be so dramatic about these minor contrivances?”

  17. Ché Pasa permalink
    May 18, 2017

    …most people are about as well off as they were before Trump.

    Uh…

    That’s… relative, I suppose.

    As always, some are doing fine. Others are not. The number of those who are not tends to grow during periods of Chaos — such as the one we’re in now — but as a rule, those who are doing fine don’t see and don’t care what happens to anybody else when their own survival is at stake.

    Chaos is not simply a matter of the Trump Follies. The chaotic situation we and wide swaths of the outer world are in was precipitated long before his ascension. He’s merely accelerating and dramatizing it. Each and every day. There is no greater drama king than the one in the White House at the moment.

    People are right to be on edge and wary, for the good which may ultimately come from the current situation is likely to be long in the future, long after our petty lives have been extinguished.

    Are the majority of people overdramatizing the current pre-catastrophe? No, I don’t think so. They’re going on with their lives as best they can under the circumstances. For some, things are fine, even getting better. For many others, not so much.

    The fact that whatever one’s physical or financial situation, one goes on with one’s life as best one can often annoys activists no end. Why do the masses not rise and do something (about something, whatever it may be)? What is wrong with people? How can they be so complacent?

    I would argue they’re not, not at all, but there’s not a lot they can do apart from what they are doing, which in many cases is merely surviving.

    Nevertheless, the drama we’re immersed in has its uses.

  18. realitychecker permalink
    May 18, 2017

    Cheer up, Roger Ailes is dead. 🙂

  19. realitychecker permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @ fredcdobbs

    How nice to see your handle. 🙂

  20. May 18, 2017

    > Cheer up, Roger Ailes is dead.

    I chortle in my joy.

  21. Charlie permalink
    May 18, 2017

    I think Ian’s main thesis is most of the people doing most of the screaming about Trump right now are doing just fine. They are just losing their need to dominate everyone else, hence the screaming.

  22. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 18, 2017

    Oh My God!! It’s a sad day indeed. And here I thought he died long ago. I never guess right with celebrities.

    It’s an early age to die for such a health nut. So much for healthy living.

    Maybe Hillary & The Clintonites are behind it. Was it a “suicide?” In a park? Using the wrong hand?

    Alfred Hitchcock Dies At Age 77

  23. fredcdobbs permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @Stephen Miller Band

    Actually I was referring to the possibility that Umbrella Man and his “friend” may not have reacted as most people did because they were involved in what happened and thus were not surprised:

    http://whowhatwhy.org/2011/12/05/jfk-umbrella-man-more-doubts/

  24. May 18, 2017

    Trust me – there are a lot of people in the US who are not fine. And this is the boom – the problem is the top 1% has gotten 90% of the spoils.

  25. Tom W Harris permalink
    May 18, 2017

    With manufacturing gone, retail’s next on the chopping block. In the near future, those who can afford to eat will order their meals from Amazon and get them delivered to their 3D printer. What could go wrong?

    You’ll never need to leave your couch. “Mommy, did people really used to have legs?”

  26. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @fredcdobbs

    Yes, I know that’s what you referring to. That was the point of my response to realitycreator. I incorrectly read his comment as follows:

    Old saying: If you can keep your head when all around you seem to be losing theirs, perhaps you understand the situation.

  27. Willy permalink
    May 18, 2017

    One knows how despised somebody was by the sheer volume of disparaging jokes that are told immediately after he dies:

    Roger Ailes gravestone should just read: Here Lies.

    Fox News viewers plan to honor the life of Roger Ailes the only way they know how – by blaming Hillary for his death.

    No one can deny that Roger Ailes touched a lot of people. Most of them pressed charges.

  28. Charlie permalink
    May 19, 2017

    Stirling,

    That is true, however, many of the people who are not fine are not screaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, every five minutes. They are trying to keep their heads above water any way they can.

    And apologies for the incorrect assertion, as the “need to dominate” should be the “permission to dominate”. That is going away. Faster and faster.

  29. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 19, 2017

    many of the people who are not fine are not screaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, every five minutes. They are trying to keep their heads above water any way they can.

    Right, and of course, the best way to do that is to zealously & blindly support a multi-billionaire and his multi-billionaire friends who have embraced, and do business with, tyrants all around the world thinking Rich F*cks like that are going to work on behalf of The Little People. It makes perfect sense — a winning strategy.

    Shut the damn news off if all you can do is react to it rather than analyze it and parse it. Anyone who can barely keep their head above water is an idiot to choose either Team Red or Team Blue to represent their interests. Neither team represents their interests if they have any interests.

    Erik Prince, A WAR CRIMINAL, was on Fox News the other night kissing Putin’s ass amidst all this nonsense. He was engaging in illogic by stating that “Lefties” are hypocritical because once upon a time they loved the Soviet Union and now they hate Russia. His statement implies Russia is still the Soviet Union, and he went on to state, or imply, that he supports Russia, or the Soviet Union, now and the “Lefties” don’t.

    He’s incapable of thinking, therefore, he, and many others as well, are Walking Contradictions. If you adhere to principles that transcend political ideology, the appropriate position because it’s based in principle is to oppose any tyranny and any tyrant. That includes tyranny abroad and tyranny at home.

    Therefore, I oppose Putin and I oppose the Democrats and the Republicans, because all of them are a form of tyranny and they’re all Kleptocrats to varying degrees as Hugh has mentioned on numerous occasions.

    Why is it so difficult for otherwise intelligent people to get outside of the left/right binary political blind? I see it everywhere, even amongst the most intelligent of people. They fall into it every time all the time. I also notice that in comments sections everywhere on The Net, there are commenters who’s sole purpose is to keep people entangled in this binary political bind. Why? How can that be constructive in any way? Unless? Unless the Status Quo is your goal and that’s your purpose for posting anything on The Net — to keep people firmly afixed to the Status Quo.

    The Status Quo is killing us, People, slowly and surely just as cigarettes do. There should be a Surgeon General’s warning on every pack of Status Quo you smoke telling you it will kill you. In fact, that should be a new brand of cigarette — Status Quo since People like it so much. Erik Prince can be the Status Quo Man versus The Marlboro Man. Instead of rustling cattle in Texas like the cancer-riddled Marlboro Man, there can be commercials with Prince raping young Arab girls in his Wheel Chair in the Middle Eastern desert somewhere in his effort to save Muslim women from the clitoral circumcision. Just as you have to burn the village down to save it, you have to rape Muslim women to save them from being raped & mutilated. That’s the logic of those who are trying to keep their heads above the water when they support Team Red or Team Blue.

  30. Tom permalink
    May 19, 2017

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia-syria-anger-us-airstrike-syrian-troops-bashar-assad-al-tanf/

    New airstrikes on Syrian Forces.

    Neither Assad nor Putin has any right to complain. Assad has zero legitimacy after destroying his nation and Putin stained his hands by backing Assad and has no moral ground to say a damn thing.

  31. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 19, 2017

    Tom, it’s clear to me now this is a collaborative ruse being perpetrated by Putin & Trump to give the appearance of tension so as to mitigate the appearance & fact of collusion. I was partially fooled the first time, but no more. Russia is good with this. Assad, like Pence, is a dupe. Putin owns him, or so he thinks. Trump owns Pence & many others, or so he thinks.

    As well, Trump & Putin have collaborated on this because of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia today. Trump has to pretend to the Saudi’s that there is no collusion as if the Saudi’s don’t know better. The forces that should be attacked in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia’s forces. How come The Donald doesn’t just attack Saudi Arabia, depose the Saudi Royal Family, and take their oil? Isn’t that one of his many Campaign Promises? That he would bomb the f*ck out of them and take their oil? We’re waiting, Donald. But we’re not holding our breath.

  32. DMC permalink
    May 19, 2017

    “Oh, the Russians, the Russians, the Russians gona GIT ya!
    They’ll sneak into your house at night.
    They’ll eat up all the jam in sight.
    They’ll kick you out by plebescite!
    “Cuz the Russians gonna GIT ya if you don’t watch out!”

  33. alyosha permalink
    May 19, 2017

    @Stirling wrote: …1999, the peak of our world’s power..

    I’m reminded of how people living in The Matrix were experiencing a reality that simulated the late 1990s, even though actual time was many years later.

    When 9/11 occurred and the USA went nuts, I realized that the only way to survive was to develop deep spiritual roots. A few later knocks from life – e.g. having to re-enter the job market at age 60 – made these roots grow deep (miraculously I re-entered my old field, IT, after a long hiatus, at pretty much my earlier salary, very much an outlier compared to my age cohort).

    “Get a grip” depends on where you are in the food chain and how many resources (of all kinds) you can bring to bear. It’s easy for me, much less so for many others.

  34. May 19, 2017

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/201617/gallup-daily-trump-job-approval.aspx

    His approval number is 38% – no one is supporting him who would not support any GOP Prez.

  35. May 19, 2017

    > “Get a grip” depends on where you are in the food chain and how many resources (of all kinds) you can bring to bear. It’s easy for me, much less so for many others.

    I have disadvantages in this regard.

  36. LuckyOne permalink
    May 19, 2017

    Thanks, Alyosha. Yes, after 9/11 was when the US went nuts. That’s when I left the Democratic Party, when it overwhelmingly supported war in Afghanistan.

    Really relate to your late life IT re-employment. After an IT career and a hiatus (and several years of struggle) I found an IT trainee job (something which barely exists any more) at age 57 and 10 years later have worked my way back up — not to my old pay, but to something that is a pretty decent amount I thought I’d never make again.

    And yes, I know how lucky I am. And yes, “getting a grip” depends a lot on one’s resources, and mine are so much better now than 10 years ago.

  37. Karah permalink
    May 19, 2017

    You made that clear and easy to understand.
    I like it. Thank You Ian.

  38. Charlie permalink
    May 20, 2017

    The SMB is pretty representative of this line of thinking among the comfortable, with “Trump supporter” being a semi-useful ad-hoc canard.

    All meant to distract from the final theft of all resources from the general populace. Then the ropes get thrown over the lampposts.

  39. Rich permalink
    May 21, 2017

    You should refrain from condescension.
    You don’t do it well.
    I was gonna throw some stats at you from my hometown, Johnstown Pennsylvania, but it’s all available at your fingertips.
    What’s your advice for Johnstown’s impoverished citizens? Thank god you’re not in Somalia? Recite the pledge of allegiance? Drape themselves in the national ensign?
    “Get a grip. And lower the drama.”
    Yemen, talk about drama. It’s the worst sort of tone deafness to lecture people how to cope with their suffering, death, unremitting poverty and chronic unemployment.
    Hell, in many ways you’re sounding like a 21st century U.S. physician.

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