A few things instead of a whole-ass Essay
Amy Writes Words, #something or other
Hello folks! It’s been difficult for me to maintain the habit of sending this newsletter regularly. This isn’t surprising, we all know habits are hard to build. Anyways, try, try again.
The perfect is the enemy of everything, so here’s an imperfect offering for you.
I will always bet against cruelty, not because I think I’ll win that bet, but because I don’t choose every day to go on living so that I can throw in with powerful men who behave badly. Yes, I’m talking about Elon Musk.
Also in regard to Elon Musk, as I tweeted yesterday: My problem with him is not that he's a narcissistic baby, although he is that. It's that he is a powerful fascist with a powerful platform who is using that platform to advance fascist interests & at the same time (and relatedly) is shifting the Overton window on how bosses can treat workers.
Here’s a Woe I wrote about how current developments driven by Musk made me actually lose my whole mind for a minute, and how I got it back. Here’s a poem I wrote about it too.
Don’t forget that there are people who use outrage as a business strategy.
Here’s a quote from Ursula Le Guin that I find relevant and hopeful right now
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.
Don’t you work at a tech business, Amy? As a … boss? Aren’t you one of the “tech executives”? Shouldn’t you maybe not criticize capitalism since you are very participating in it?
No, that’s a spurious argument. I can be part of a particular kind of game (running a business within the larger framework of tech capitalism) while also critiquing it and dreaming of something else.
Here’s something I wrote on the topic of being a boss, by the way. It’s about power. If you manage people, I think you should read it.
The difference between Grief and Joy is not as large as people think. They meet, often, at their extremes, in an emotional experience that is maybe best described as Awe.
Something I’m thinking about from Tiny Habits, as 2023 nears. What’s the tiniest habit I can create that will have the most meaning for me? Not for the person I think I should be, but for me, as I am, in this moment. What do I ACTUALLY care about?
I’m not sure yet what my answer is. There’s a lot of things I’ve tried and failed to change in my life because they were too big or too hard, but I have had success with tiny habit changes and, sometimes, with big ones too.
This McSweeney’s article about Cookie Monster wondering if he is, indeed, a monster, perfectly encapsulates so many of my internal conversations about myself: am me monster or am me not monster, just regular person? Me monster.
That’s the darkness inside me talking, yes, but if it did not speak to me that way I wouldn’t ask myself any difficult questions, would I? I wouldn’t bother to be careful with my power or with my words, because I would never suspect that I might be wrong. Which is certainly a much easier way to live. It’s just not one on offer to me.
And for that, honestly, I am grateful. I do not seek the Dunning-Kruger confidence of a chatbot. I seek to grow, not so that I can say I have a growth mindset so as to better succeed in business, but so that I can become as full a human as I can be.
At a dinner last month I managed to start an argument about politics even though everyone at the table was a Democrat. The argument was about defunding the police.
One diner accused me of forcibly ejecting people from the Democratic party, as if I had that kind of power, as if merely stating my opinion on the matter around a table were an act of aggression.
I don’t know much about it, said another diner, but I am sure that we need the police and that defunding them is a terrible idea.
Well, I said, I actually do know something about this topic, and, as a result, I am an abolitionist. I would like to abolish the police and to abolish prisons.
Will you read a book about it, I asked the person who said they didn’t know much about it. No, that’s not really a priority for me, they said. I didn’t ask them how they could so casually hold an opinion on a topic about which they admitted knowing so little. It was time for dessert.
If you too think that abolishing the police is a terrible idea, that they protect us, or maybe you’re not sure what you think but you don’t know much about it, and you’re willing to consider it, allow me to recommend The End of Policing, by Alex Vitale, a well-researched, eye-opening book on the matter. You can get it as an e-book for a mere $6. We Do This Till We Free Us, by Mariame Kaba, is another great read, also available as an ebook for $6. If you aren’t willing to commit to a whole book (understandable), here’s an article instead.
Neither of those are easy books, especially for white liberals who largely haven’t had negative interactions with the police and other coercive kinds of state control. Myself, I have been involuntarily committed, which is not the same as having been jailed, but is not entirely different either. As a crazy person, I fear the police. Even going through the TSA line at the airport terrifies me. Because I am a small white woman, I don’t expect to be summarily executed by the police, but I don’t trust them either.
Maybe this still seems like it doesn’t have much to do with you personally, so it’s still not a priority.
Allow me to suggest otherwise: If you’re worried about fascism, or white supremacy, or anti-semitism, or voter suppression, or violent insurrectionists, or abortion rights, well, all of those worries are intimately and inextricably tied to our system of policing and prisons.
It is those systems, already in existence, which will be increasingly turned against you, yes YOU, for being queer, or having an abortion (or a miscarriage), or attending a protest, or, or, or, or.
Maybe you think I’m a woke radical social justice warrior with impractical and idealistic notions. Maybe you disagree with my messaging. But maybe, just maybe, if you looked more closely at what the police are actually doing, about how our prisons actually function, you’d be convinced that they’re not such a good idea after all.
I know it is easy to dismiss me as crazy but in 2023 I’m going to keep daring you to look with me at uncomfortable things.
Ooh! That, it turns out, is the tiniest habit I can cultivate that will have the most meaning for me.
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