Saturday, August 30, 2014

I can't, not any more.

You know the old saying about how if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention to what's going on in the world?

I don't want to pay attention to what's going on in the world any more. There's so much anger, so much outrage, and so many bad things happening. And there's screw-all I can do to fix any of it.

First, the pessimism: I think we will see more Fergusons in the coming years. For various reasons. In some cases, it may be trigger-happy cops. In others, it may be perps who push a little too far. And in some, it'll be the media or the attention-hound types who show up and make a big deal of it, and whip people up.

It's become all too easy to see other people as The Other of late.

(for what it's worth: My conclusion is there are no heroes in the situation. Everyone was wrong in some way. Even if the cop is vindicated....we will never know totally what happened at that altercation).

More pessimism: I won't be surprised if we see more terrorist attacks on our own soil. There are apparently ISL members who have US passports - who are US citizens. They could come back here and I don't know what. And quite aside from the disruption, loss of life, possible loss of a city (if they use a suitcase nuke or something and the survivors have to be evacuated and the area cordoned off), I suspect the government will use that crisis to add on more restrictions to law-abiding citizens. Because the law-abiding citizens tend to be the ones who have to deal the most with things like airport security, being stopped and checked out in some public place, etc.

Still more: I don't even know what will happen in Ukraine. Likely it will come under the domination of Russia once again. Worst case scenario is a full-blown war breaks out, and we see something like Crimea Round 2 or the Balkan Wars all over again. Well, actually, worst case scenario would be World War III.

And still more: What of the people crossing the border illegally? A lot of voices are calling for caring for the children, for caring for those claiming to be fleeing oppression. But then again: where does the money come from? We have poor kids in Appalachia, poor kids in the inner city who live under terrible conditions and 50+ years of federal programs don't seem to have made their lots vastly better. (I am fine with private charities choosing to do something, though I also think merely patting someone on the head and handing them a debit card only pushes the inevitable dealing-with of the sources of the problem further into the future).

And I look at all of this and I feel so tired. And yeah, on some level, hopeless. Even though I am a Christian and believe that Good will win, I really don't want to have to wait until "we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be" in order to see the world getting better.

And the other thing, as I said, except for praying (And I do. I pray for our leaders, that they will figure out some kind of wise path. And I pray for future leaders, that there will be someone good who comes forth and not merely someone who is looking to either repeatedly get re-elected or looking to merely shove the other party's face in it), there's screw-all I can do to fix ANYTHING.

I don't know. I was raised to be a 'fixer.' That if a problem came up, rather than giving up or throwing my hands up or sitting down and crying, that I was to sit down and figure out a way to fix it or at least make it better. And it's a strange feeling of detached hopelessness when it seems that the world is falling apart and there is truly nothing concrete I can do. I mean, yeah, I hear about a lot of people talking about the save-your-own-skin-and-your-family's stuff like making sure you have a good store of food and tools and other things....and I do that, but I don't want to just save my own skin. I want things to be better, full stop.

And as I said, I don't know what to do. I try to do what I can: to give my students the best preparation they can have for their future careers. To be a compassionate and caring person and to direct people in the direction of actual help when they have a problem (E.g., referring a student with bad personal problems to the counselor, so hopefully they can begin to work on them). To do volunteer work through my church and even stuff  like picking up litter in my neighborhood.

But that's all so damn small. It feels so small. It feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

And I realize on some level this is a "you don't control other people's behavior" situation: if someone decides to go and bust out the plate-glass window on a store downtown, simply because that store sells stuff the person can't afford and they think it is UNFAIR, I don't have control over that and frankly there's probably nothing I could say to change the person's mind. But I also....I don't know, I have such a hunger to do something that makes the world a better place and it feels like everything I can do is so insignificant. That things have got so bad that there's maybe nothing any of us can do to fix things.

And my reaction to that is to draw back. To watch cooking shows and cartoons instead of paying any attention to the news. To lock myself in my lab and work on research about stuff that really doesn't have any direct impact on humanity. To read Regency romances and detective novels and other books that flesh out a world in my head that is a lot nicer than the real world is right now.

I feel conflicted by this because part of me says that part of being a responsible person is paying attention to what's going on, partly so I KNOW but also partly so if things get bad enough I have to get out of Dodge somehow (though frankly, where I live is pretty far out of Dodge to begin with; it's probably where the rest of my family would run to if the larger cities they were in became undesirable because of being a terrorist target or something). But part of me feels that since I can't do anything, and it's destroying my happiness, and if I'm gonna wind up getting blown to Kingdom Come or have to spend the rest of my life trying to scrape out a living by farming and hunting (if the economy really goes kablam), that maybe it's better to be a happy fool now.

And I don't like feeling that way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Odd random thought

I suppose there's probably some law against this somewhere (or maybe not constitutional), but I was thinking about how they are saying there are apparently American (and also British) citizens who have joined ISL or ISIS or whatever you want to call it, and are fighting alongside of them.

And my first thought was this: rescind their American citizenship. So maybe that makes the guy a man without a country. I don't have a problem with that. (And the same thing for Britain). Because isn't what they're doing technically traitorous?

I don't know. Of all the things in the world that worry me the spread of some kind of crazed fundamentalism worries me the most. (I won't even call it Islam, because they're killing their supposed co-religionists, and a number of Muslims have spoken out against it (though we need more to)). They've got money, they don't have any compunctions about dying (or at least, the kids they recruit as cannon-fodder don't), they will kill others horribly and brutally to make "good theater."

It's a completely different philosophy from the West, and one thing that worries me is whether we have the fortitude to fight it in the way it probably needs to be fought.

But maybe declaring any person of American citizenship who decides to go join them a traitor, and not welcome back here, and losing their citizenship (and hell, I don't know if it's legal but: having their assets in this country frozen) might be a place to start. A small place, but a place.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

So far, so good

Classes have started. We had our first full week. In general, things look good, even though I'm teaching an overload.

Though there is one in every group. I received not one but two panicked e-mails from a student detailing all of their current Life Problems (none of which would rate an accommodation from the Disabilities office, so....) and that those things are going to be the Reasons that I have to do stuff for them, or make changes and adjustments.

And it just makes me all so tired. When's the point that I get to tell someone, "Suck it up; you're an adult now. If you don't want to be an adult please apply to someone who is, hopefully a family member, and see if they'll take care of you for the rest of your life."

Part of the reason for my tiredness is that I have a lot of stuff going on in my personal life right now that are just "suck it up and deal" moments. So my sympathy right now is kind of limited.

The other thing is, and I think students forget this: I have a total of five classes I am teaching. Between those five classes I have 115 students. That is far fewer than most profs in this nation but still, 115 people is a LOT of people to learn the names of. And it would be impossible to treat each one with the degree of specialness this person is requesting.

Yes, I am happy to do things like arrange for a 'quiet room' for testing for someone with a demonstrated disability. Yes, I can arrange to get a special chair for the person who's had back surgery. No, I have no problems with the person who has hip trouble sitting in the back so they can stand up periodically when it gets to bothering them. But I draw the line at playing emotional counselor to someone who probably needs to call their mom or their sister or their best friend.

And thank goodness I don't have the darn Readings class any more; that turned into a cluster fast after we decided to do it as a hybrid class. (it's a one-credit class, which SHOULD mean one hour of work and interaction per week, but the students never took that seriously. With the hybrid format I tried to force that and it wound up with a situation where I cared more about getting the class work done than my students did, which is generally a line someone teaching should not cross.)