Dim Prospects

It’s not looking good:

It’s been like this for months. And that’s with Democrats in the WH, when one would expect a pendulum swing.

Source of Inspiration

I wrote a whopping 1,400 words of my Ukrainian book today, which is an unbelievable number for me. But the process was made easy by two factors:

1. I had to attend a 2,5 meeting, and there was nothing else to do there but write.

2. I was writing a paragraph on the cartoon Bluey being criticized for not having any queer, gender-fluid, disabled puppies or puppies of color, and “gender-fluid puppies” sounds so funny in Ukrainian that I was inspired to keep writing.

I have no idea how the publishing market works in Ukraine and whether I’ll be able to publish the book but I’m writing what I always wanted to say in what feels like a secret language, and this is very therapeutic.

Hope vs Change

Mikhail Krieger, a pro-Ukrainian activist in Russia is singing a patriotic Ukrainian song during a trial in Moscow where he faces 9 years in jail for an anti-Putin post on Facebook:

Based on his last name, I’m guessing he is probably Jewish, like 99,9% of anti-Putin activists in Russia.

Be that as it may, I find it significant that protesters in Russia are switching to the Ukrainian language and are adopting Ukrainian patriotic imagery. People need patriotism. They need to feel invested into a nation. Russian people never had that, so when they discover the possibility of feeling all this towards Ukraine, they are like Soviet people in an American supermarket in 1990.

I’m seeing this in N. If you think I’m invested in Ukraine, you should see him. The Ukrainian flags on our house and in my office – he bought them. He has 20 shirts with Ukraine symbols while I have two. He checks if I have a Ukrainian badge on whenever I go out to an event. He reads, listens and watches three times what I do about Ukraine.

Of course, people will assume he’s doing it to please me. But he never developed an interest in neoliberalism or the anti-COVID stuff. He doesn’t read Spanish literature to please me. He never watched Tucker Carlson or Matt Walsh. He has no idea who Brett Kavanaugh is, even though the Kavanaugh affair was the turning point in my political beliefs. This isn’t about me. It’s about discovering a powerful source of feeling he had no idea existed.

The war in Ukraine revealed something crucial to us all. We now know the great weakness of the post-national model. It doesn’t evoke good feelings in people. It can scare, it can create anxiety, it can pitch identity groups against each other. But it can’t inspire or bring joy. It can’t make you feel stronger or more resilient. It doesn’t know how to give hope. Hope and change don’t really go together. Fluidity crushes hope because it overwhelms our capacity to stay grounded in reality. In the midst of constant change, you simply don’t know what to hope for other than for the change to stop happening. Bordeless, amorphous neoliberalism is being crushed on the battlefield, in people’s minds, in art, everywhere. It’s failing, and that’s where real hope lies.

What the activist from Russia is singing in his cage is really, “we want country, we want nation, we want patriotism. We want what is normal for human beings to want.” And that’s good.

AI and Subjectivity

When people fret about the impending death of democracy because of coming fascism or authoritarianism, they are half right. Democracy is weakened but by the erosion of the nation-state.

I think a similar anxiety can be seen in the worries that AI will develop so much that it will have its own subjectivity and then you won’t be able to distinguish between humans and machines. People intuit a real problem but they mistakenly attribute it to AI. It isn’t the development of the AI that’s a problem. It’s the impoverishment of human subjectivity.

We develop a subjectivity by being alone with our thoughts. When a small child first starts engaging in imaginative play and you see her little lips moving silently as she goes deep inside her mind to find enjoyment within, you feel a sense of reverence because you are witnessing a little animal becoming human. It’s an amazing moment. A child’s deep, unbroken concentration is precious.

But we are losing this capacity. One needs to work hard every day to keep it. That’s the real threat to our subjectivity, and the AI is simply an object onto which we displace our fear of something real we perceive in ourselves.