Ranting Our Way to the Finish Line; How Screaming into the Void With Friends Can Help
One of my favorite things about my group of friends is that we are all extremely comfortable info-dumping on niche topics to one another. I’ve started labeling them our rants, which is what eventually led to the title of this blog. As we are experiencing the collapse of the U.S. Empire in real time we’ve all banded together digitally through video call apps, parrying memes back and forth to one another, and either typing or voice messaging quick spouts of rage about anything from slow sidewalk pedestrians to the government’s attempt at using aliens as a distraction from all of this clown shoes and fuckery currently cascading on our lives. As a side note, we’ve determined as a group that everyone should have to get a permit to walk in public spaces in New York City- if you’re a tourist, you should have to wear a neon helmet and locals get to hit you as hard as they want when you deviate from the flow of traffic. You should be walking in pairs at most, not a line of four people that we have to play a round of Red Rover through to get to work. Step to the side to gawk at the buildings.
I’m extremely lucky in that I have so many educated as well as self-taught, intelligent friends. My friends are curious, capable, adaptable humans. So when something is pissing them off, I’m not only getting a keen analysis of the issue but a speaker with the emotional understanding to navigate if something is a problem to be solved or a mess to be avoided. We’re also all fucking cursed with the regular swings between oppressive, helpless nihilism and radiant, overwhelming absurdism. It’s traumatizing, but at least we’re all funny. And we’ve got each other. In my dream of dreams, we’re all able to actually afford homes and travel regularly and physically visit each other or have places close to one another. It’s why I miss living in a city so much; the ability to jump on public transport and just go do something or meet up with someone without worrying about parking or driving home after drinking or paying for the gas and all that other crap is a gift beyond measure. But with corporations driving the housing crisis (it’s a crisis, not a shortage), it’ll be a while until I can afford city living again. And, you guessed it- it’s on purpose.
When people don’t have direct access to one another, it’s easier to divide them and keep them scared and oppressed. Humans are social creatures; that’s why quarantining during the beginning of the COVID pandemic was so difficult for so many people. And my theory is it’s also why so many stupid ideas and misinformation metastasized into destructive conspiracy theories like Q Anon and Ivermectin or vaccine scares- when we aren’t forced to say things out loud in front of other people, our brains stop engaging our mirror neurons, which are necessary in finding and growing empathy in humans. I also believe that telling a story, live, with other people, is the best way to engage mirror neurons- and there seems to be science to back up my idea. A study at the University of Arkansas found that viewing a live theatrical performance can improve not only literary understanding, but tolerance, empathy, and emotional intelligence among students. I think it’s because when you’re sitting in the audience you’re in a dark, physically safe place while people on stage, right in front of you, are doing mentally and emotionally dangerous things. This physical safety and relaxation is counterintuitive to the stimulus from the human performers working onstage- and, as a response, your heartbeat and breath actually sync with the storytellers you’re watching. This has been going on in human societies longer than religion- you don’t get a priest and a congregation without a performer and an audience first. That’s why religious services use music, singing, and ritual performance to engage and emotionally prime their audiences- they’re just doing the same theatrical performance moves humans have been watching since before civilization, then telling whatever story they feel like once they audience has been manipulated into being open to it. But, with the takeover of Puritanism and the highjacking of storytelling by corporate & hierarchical power structures, we haven’t been physically safe to relax our bodies and (let our minds and hearts) to be vulnerable to storytelling in communal spaces- we’ve been stressed out and tense and lied to at a whole other level since 9/11. And when we were told we couldn’t even get that basic level of shit interaction socially in March 2020, we collectively lost our minds.
Our brains panicked. We needed to hear stories of panic, stories that could meet where the brain and heart were- even if the stories were lies. So people jumped onto conspiracy theories because there hasn’t been emotional regulation in groups for a while. And, if there is social interaction, it’s entertainment based- which means distracting from reality. Art is a weapon and, when unleashed in an audience that is over-stimulated and under-supported socially, it crumbles the false reality- which kicks the stressed-out audience’s ego into high alert. The loop begins again, this time escalating to attack any and all threats to the tense, terrifying status quo that the audience brain thinks it needs to maintain or it’ll die.
This, on top of the wage & debt crises that capitalists purposely caused with their greed, means that the powers that be are only ratcheting up the physical dangers to maintain their control. Wells Fargo just pulled out of the home mortgage market- they had been the biggest player in that niche up until that move. They’ve decided to just buy homes directly and then rent them at higher prices; they will just evict you if you can’t meet their demands. That’s what BlackRock, Satan’s Asset Manager, is also doing- buying up the land with the money from the wages they fucking stole from all of us. Now, you won’t even have a home to go to. You’ll have to move into their employee housing or company towns. And, when you throw the Pentagon spending more in peacetime than war and preparing to destroy another corner of the world with Lockheed Martin (there are multiple deals totaling 15 years in contracts for whatever conflict they’re planning to make money and kill people with next), you know they’ll just tell you to ‘join the military if you want a decent life’. As someone with a family full of service members of all branches, do not do this. All of them call it ‘Foster Care for Adults’ and don’t get any of the support they need after the damage done to them during ‘training’. It’s abuse and it’s a horrible system; do not put yourself through it, whatever the recruiter tells you. You’re just signing up to get shot at. Or to eventually shoot yourself.
We know what’s happening, and we’re all rightfully feeling helpless- on the surface, this is a grim, oppressive problem. And with that stupid, rugged Individualism that’s turned off our empathy builders, making us unable to use our mirror neurons when we need to listen and learn from each other, we are collapsing under the weight of handling systemic issues alone. But this is, weirdly, what’s so bolstering to me. My friends and I can solve these problems- we already are. These problems are not difficult to solve- they’re just big. But if you can develop a plan, you can start talking to others and taking steps to create a solution together.
Take a recent rant from a friend of mine. We were sending videos and memes about the foster care system, how it’s where something like 60% of U.S. trafficking victims are taken from, when another video popped up about how kids are taken from their parents and put into the system for faults that could literally be solved with money. In the video, a CPS worker takes kids into costly state custody because of ‘medical neglect’, even when Doctors explain that parents were doing everything they could to help their kid, but struggling to meet their kids' needs because of finances that would total less than what the state would pay to separate the kid from their family. In the video, this former CPS worker points out that the state sets up systems to look like they’re helping people, but really they’re just keeping them under poverty and with the constant threat of having their kids taken away to keep them in that exploitative labor class. Work more hours to meet your child’s unique needs that could be solved on a systemic level with universal basic health care, decent public education, and livable wages, or we’ll take away your family. It’s the rich holding the poor hostage. This CPS worker saw case after case and realized a majority of problems could literally have been solved, not with interventions or another class or meeting with a counselor, but with direct aid, by simply giving these families money.
My friend immediately pointed out the larger issue- it’s not only how we’re being taxed in this country or where that money is going, but how that money is being used and the operational process to address the issues at hand. If people actually listened to the workers in the field and the workers had control of how they solved the problem, you can bet the problems would actually be solved. So many of these programs were only put in place to maintain the status quo, not to actually solve the problem. Because, as seen with WIC, food stamps, and homelessness, direct funding and aid are 6x cheaper than these ‘helping’ programs and removes the unnecessary & expensive bureaucratic processes to determine if someone is ‘worthy’ of that aid. A lot of time, conservative politicians will demand operational inefficiencies to render a program worthless, then turn around and rage about the “inefficiencies of government” that they personally put in place. Welfare programs, which are necessary under capitalism since capitalism requires an exploitable, beaten poor class of workers to sustain itself, should be temporary but cannot be as long as we’re affixed to this system. But as we move away from hierarchical structures and address the need to meet together in human spaces, we need the resources to feel physically safe again at the individual level, but provided through a system where every human receives the basics necessary for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We need Universal Basic Income- there are already more people than jobs and so much work is ready to be automated. It would be cheaper than the current welfare programs and could literally be paid by putting a ceiling tax on billionaires. No one person needs that much money while others can’t afford to keep their children, the world is meant to be for all of us.
I love my friends because the problems don’t seem so big when we rant. It’s just a rant. It’s just a problem to be solved. And now that we’ve ranted about it, we can get to solving it. The first way for me to start personally solving this problem of capitalism’s social divide and conquer attempt is to pass along the book that this friend recommended to me, which helped me see how and why a better society is not only possible but an achievable responsibility: “Utopia for Realists” by Ruter Bregman. And the next part is to explain how I think we can actually make some progress in taking our lives back.
We have to get physically involved in our communities. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing for work- breaking the isolation and finding time to co-regulate with another handful of people, even if you’re the world’s biggest introvert, is necessary. You don’t have to be loud- you can all read in a bookshop in different chairs, or go to a movie. Go spend time with your friends. And after you do something, then talk. Really talk. Small talk and deep talk. Talk about the weather, talk about your old Tamagotchi- ask if anyone still has a Furby. If it’s still not safe or feasible for you to meet with friends in person, I get it- still get outside if you can. Walk around your neighborhood, your body needs to physically ground with either good people or in nature. And if you cannot get physically near people or outside, call someone. Anyone. Talk, talk, and keep talking. Rant to someone about all your petty problems and the silly little things that make you mad or sad or upset. Let it out to other people, people who won’t judge you. Don’t record it, don’t do it for the ‘gram- just let loose. Because you need to know you’re not alone. Your brain needs that physical reminder if possible, that you’re on this Earth and what you think and feel is completely different but exactly the same as everyone else and you deserve time, attention, and a voice just like every person does.
Think of your issues this way. If I say the word ‘chair’ to an audience, everyone will think of the concept of ‘chair’, a piece of furniture made for sitting. But every single person in that audience will have a completely different chair in mind. They might think of a wooden chair, a computer chair, a bean bag- and even if two people think of a chair that is physically identical, their feelings and emotions about that chair will be different. When you talk about your problems specifically and become vulnerable emotionally, other people think about ways they can do that in their own lives. They personalize it, it’s how human brains work. When you start looking at and speaking from the scars in your life, the old things you’ve healed and are mostly just annoying right now, you might be giving someone who is currently injured in that same way hope for recovery and growth. Or, if you need to speak from a current, bleeding emotional wound, someone who is in a better mental or emotional space can provide comfort and support while you process it. Doing this in person, even for little annoyances, will give you practice turning your mirror neurons back on. It’ll increase your mental and emotional intelligence. It’ll also start to bring people together when you realize, just like everyone thought of a ‘chair’, we all have the same problem- our rights have been stripped and the system isn’t made for us. So we need to start building our own, together.
I look forward to listening to your miscellaneous ranting, friends.
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