Author Archives: Matthew Appleton

About Matthew Appleton

A dad and loving husband who is also an easily distracted sf&f junkie, LEGO enthusiast, Phillies fan, and writer wannabe who really has too many other responsibilities to be working on his many different on-going projects.

Sunday Morning Thoughts and Contemplations

It’s been months since posting anything to this blog, I’m currently the only one awake in the house, and there are some thoughts careening around my head. So…

  • I really need a Lego workspace. I’d certainly attempt far more displays given a safe-from-feline area to go wild with. It’s possible that with a little more decluttering and rearranging, a portion of the garage could be turned into one. To do that though, insulating the garage door (something we should really do anyway, given the design of the house) becomes a moral imperative.
  • Spending three days in Philly last week and then going to Winchester, VA a few days starkly illustrated the difference between blue America and red America. In Philly,  nearly everyone was still wearing masks and doing their best to be responsible and considerate to those who haven’t been vaccinated yet. In Winchester, it was almost as if the pandemic had never happened. I guarantee you that the vaccination rates of those in Center City Philly is much higher than in Winchester. Red America is going to be in for a rude awakening at some point in the not-to-distant future. 
  • Barenaked Ladies is putting out a new album next month, and for the first time ever since becoming a fan 30 years ago, I’m not feeling any excitement or anticipation. Their last two albums weren’t all that good, and the first single of the new album, “Flip,” was simply grating to my ears. I’ll almost certainly buy it and give the album every chance to surprise me, but my expectations are just about as low as they can get.
  • It’s likely that at the end of the month Sally and I will be attending our first concert since the pandemic started. We purchased Jonathan Coulton tickets in December 2019 for a show originally scheduled to take place in May 2020. The show never actually got canceled, and after numerous reschedules, it is taking place on Tuesday, June 29. If we do decide to attend (the deadline to request a refund is still a week away,) we are going to be counting heavily on the hope that Coulton fans (at least the ones in this area) are sufficiently like-minded and that the overwhelming majority will be actually following CDC guidelines and not acting like the unvaccinated in Winchester.

That’s it for the time being. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you with his noodley appendage. 

Inauguration Day

I wanted to be excited and happy today. Instead, all I feel is mixture of exhaustion, sadness, and relief. I wept on Election Night 2016, fearful of what would happen under a Trump presidency — because I knew his decades-long record as a business man clearly showed how he would govern. My worst fears that evening were realized beyond what I imagined.

Four years of witnessing Trump gaslight and lie to an extent that still staggers my imagination. Four years of seeing him undermine and destroy long-held, vital democratic ideals and principles. Four years of watching the GOP enable and support him in a boot-licking subservient manner that would have embarrassed the most sycophantic medieval nobility. Four years of watching him tear away environmental, worker, LGBTQ, and consumer protections. Four years of watching him flaunt the emoluments clause of the Constitution (again, with GOP help.) Four years of watching him put himself and his narcissistic desires above country. Then, nearly a full year of watching him callously do next-to-nothing about a pandemic that killed 400,00 Americans on his watch. All capped of by an insurrection attempt he clearly encouraged.

That wasn’t even the worst of it.

No. The worst was seeing what his rhetoric and policies brought out in a sizable percentage of the American people. I was appalled and disgusted by a number of friends and family starkly displaying just how much they despise people like me for my beliefs. If the Trump and the right wing noise machine said that was an un-American enemy, they believed it. There was nothing I could do to show that I wasn’t communist who was out to destroy America. I ultimately unfriended, with extreme prejudice, a number of people who I used to think were basically decent folks.

I’m certain that what I’m feeling is a form of PTSD. I wanted to be excited and happy watching Biden’s inauguration, but I just wasn’t able. Instead, as he took the oath of office, I briefly sobbed. Thinking about it too much much only tinges what I’m still feeling with anger.

Fuck Trump. Dante didn’t imagine a circle of hell sufficient to punish him for what he did to this country and its people.

On MLK Day

Dear White People:

On the day that we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy, let’s have a little chat, shall we? One white person to another. There’s some shit about racism that needs to be talked about here. Specifically, your collective knee-jerk reflexive need to whitewash and disproportionately celebrate King’s embrace of passive resistance and non-violence. The man had an awful lot more to say that gets ignored in the process.

Yes, I get it. The high-level abstract impression left by the “I Have a Dream” speech makes dealing with racism easier. “Oh look, there is a Black man who says we all need to be peaceful and just get along. Then racism will go away!” You do realize that he got murdered by a racist for suggesting that, don’t you?  Stop making the the “I Have a Dream” speech your touchstone for you understanding and celebration of the man. That speech, which is over 55 years old, is about an ideal world that is merely marginally closer to reality than it was then. In fact, it behooves us to instead focus a little harder on a passage from an earlier, 1956 speech, “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious.” He makes it abundantly clear what a peaceful society with justice entails:

“I don’t want peace:

“If peace means accepting second class citizenship I don’t want it.

“If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.

“If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace.

“If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace.

“In a passive non-violent manner we must revolt against this peace.”

Yes, he ends with non-violence, but also take notice the word “revolt.” So long as the peace is without justice, it cannot stand. Maybe, the fact that Black people are still needing to fight for the full array of human dignities and rights that white Americans absentmindedly take for granted is a clue that something is still horribly wrong. Beyond that, It’s kind of difficult to continue spreading a message about peace and love when you’ve been shot dead for it, right? Before he was murdered in cold blood by a white person (never forget that), his views on protesting were already undergoing a noticeable change.

Admit it, if all you do is focus on his earlier writing and speeches, then it is rather difficult to reconcile them with much of what he started to say before being shot. In a speech he delivered to the American Psychology Association’s annual convention in September 1967, he stated:

“Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena… They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking.”

See, there’s an illustration of the problem with continuing to insist that protests should remain peaceful. Peaceful protests only work against a system that has a guilty conscience; one that can be shamed into doing the right thing when historically speaking it has been anything but fair and just. This is a huge reason why Gandhi was successful in helping to bring India its independence from Great Britain. The British, having just won a war in which the enemy was the most efficient racist killing machine in human history, just didn’t have the stomach for turning around and brutally repressing another race of people. There’s an alternate history short story, “The Last Article” by Harry Turtledove, that underscores this point. In it, the Nazis win World War II and Gandhi is forced to deal with them rather than the British. It should be clear, even without reading, that Gandhi’s techniques would not have worked against them.

Oh, let’s not forget that Gandhi also ended up murdered in cold blood (albeit for different reasons.)

But, I digress slightly.

What would have happened if Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn’t been murdered, and he had the opportunity to grow older? I guarantee you his views and feelings would have continued to evolve and change. That is what happens to any self-aware person who is willing to let their beliefs be challenged and change them when confronted with facts that do not support what they previously espoused. I will not attempt to theorize they direction they would have taken, but I am certain that King’s would have changed and evolved. I sincerely believe this because of my own growth and change as an individual.

See, during college I wrote extensively in the Commentary section of the student newspaper. In fact, I was the editor of that section for two years. During that time, I wrote nearly 100 opinion pieces, and there is stuff in there that makes me cringe thinking that I wrote it. I know that at times I was sexist, racist, and well… just painfully ignorant. However, I also did try my best to listen and think hard about what feedback I received. Change and growth didn’t happen as quickly as it could and should have — I readily admit to a painfully stubborn streak that continues to challenge me — but over time I came to understand and appreciate what was wrong about those beliefs and how I had to change them. I think it’s obvious that Martin Luther King Jr. was that kind of self-aware person.

So, white people, please stop focusing on the feel-good parts of his sermons, speeches, and interviews. It’s a bad fucking look — especially if you haven’t truly bothered to read the writings of numerous other black writers, both fiction and non-fiction. No one with a truly well-considered opinion relies solely on the work of one person or just one perspective. When you do that, all you are doing is reinforcing and pushing your own beliefs, without any true thought or reflection. It’s like saying that Alex Jones speaks for white people. Well, I’m sure he speaking for way too many of you, but I hope you get the point.

Do better.

End of 2020/Start of 2021

I don’t think I can really say anything that hasn’t already been expressed by many others since the pandemic started. Much about the year sucked, but all things considered, in many ways I was extremely fortunate in 2020. I know we are all “in the same storm,” but it doesn’t make me feel any less self-conscious about writing or talking about my struggles living in the time of COVID-19. So, I will simply state that I am happy to see this year end, and will be celebrating its demise later this evening.

Given the slow rollout of the vaccines and the still ongoing slow-motion attempt by Der Katzengröpenführer and his enablers to undermine American democracy, I don’t want to get too hopeful about the coming year, as the first few months will mostly represent an ugly continuation of 2020. However, there is a visible light at the end of the clichéd tunnel. So, provided we get through the month of January without a true Constitutional crisis (extremely low probability) and/or a bunch of 2nd Amendment solution types deciding to finally enact some of their fantasies about killing libtards (slightly higher probability, but still hopefully trivial), there is legitimate reason to hope that overall the coming year will be better. 

Another Week, Another Series of Bullet Points

Another week, another series of bullet points. Really, at some point, a proper blog post will appear here. No, I mean it… Stop laughing!

  • The sixth week of the eating and exercise routine went well. I’m now slightly over 15 pounds lighter than I was on the morning of October 12. The hope for this week is to merely maintain, as the plan for Thanksgiving is to gorge like Homer Simpson on Super Bowl Sunday (“Good bye, belt!”) Even if the weight goes up slightly this week, the year-end goal to get to 220 pounds, which is currently just under four pounds away, still seems very attainable.
  • My phone now contains three dictated/mostly written posts in need of some editing before they can be posted. The current plan is to get them online during the long Thanksgiving weekend. This plan, however, may easily be compromised by the other big weekend plan: fully assembling the 5,500+ piece Lego Diagon Alley set.
  • This household will be doing the right thing this Thanksgiving, in light of the explosion in COVID infections and deaths: we are staying home and inviting no one here. In fact, I have even tongue-in-cheek left a comment on one of my mom’s Facebook posts telling her that she is lovingly and cordially invited (with absolutely zero irony intended) to stay far from us this year. We want her, and everyone else we care about, to be healthy and able to see us next holiday season.
  • Along those lines, I have to give giant kudos to my friend Tommie. Brandon and I had plans to get together with him this past Sunday to watch some football, and he was the one who smartly canceled, without hesitation. I, on the other hand, was stubbornly obtuse enough to follow through with the plans had he not done so. I’m glad that he wasn’t being as willfully ignorant as I was. It’s highly unlikely any of us were sick or would have spread COVID to the other house, but it was absolutely the right thing to do regardless.
  • Because this past Sunday marked the day in the calendar that is the earliest possible date Thanksgiving could fall on, Sally and I decided to go ahead and start playing Christmas music. Given the past year, jumping the gun by five days is an absolutely defensible decision to make.
  • I am not getting ads in my Facebook feed for hair ties for men, by a company called “The Longhairs.” Really? I’m sorry, but men don’t need hair ties designed especially for men. What’s even funnier is the advertising copy in the ad: “Our products do 3 things – inspire confidence, develop masculinity & foster community.” Foster community? Seriously!? When I decide to start smoking pot, I am going to find out who their supplier is.

Mid-November Update

I hope to have a lengthy post online within the next day or two. Until then, more bullet points.

  • Today marks five full weeks since the newfound motivation to get myself back into proper shape. Official loss thus far is over 13 pounds. Even accounting for the fact that five of those were in the first week (which is typical when getting this serious about eating right and exercising), averaging two pounds/week is probably going just a little too fast. I haven’t been starving myself, but a slight increase in the average intake seems to be called for.
  • For over a week now, I’ve sat on two posts dictated into the phone and simply in need of proofreading and minor editing. It would be nice to state that there wasn’t sufficient time to get that work done and post them over the weekend, but I think we all know better. There’s another longish post half planned out in my head, so there’s plenty of material for posting online this week – provided I force myself to spend the necessary time pounding away at the keyboard.
  • Breaking down the Lego Halloween display and properly putting away the component sets was the big project this past weekend. Not only was it completed, work also began on the Christmas display. This year’s is going to be both the largest in terms of total pieces and involves the least amount of creativity. Essentially, it’s just going to be the new Diagon Alley set, with modifications to give it a holiday look and feel. The hope is to have it completed by the end of the month, but that may be a little ambitious.
  • Thanks in large part to the pandemic, our ninth wedding anniversary was a low-key affair — we ordered some Thai for takeout and watched some television together on the couch. Given that last year was spent at Universal Studios Orlando (in particular the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and poolside while a snow squall raced through the homestead, it felt like quite the step down. Hopefully, the pandemic will start winding down in time for us to properly celebrate our tenth anniversary next year.
  • It has now been over a year since my last haircut. No current plans or even ideas as to when the next one will be. Even if it is a low risk activity, it just doesn’t seem to be one worth taking. Admittedly, the fact that there is barely any visible gray in it all makes it easier to let it simply grow out. However, the beard is not following suit, and the difference has become rather striking. Nonetheless, there are no plans whatsoever to either color the gray in the beard or to shave it off.

Life as a Series of Bullet Points

  • Today marks three weeks of exercising and eating properly following the newfound motivation to properly take care of myself again. The official weight loss thus far: 8.6 pounds. Alas, goal weight is 40 pounds away. However, Halloween came and went without gorging upon fun sized Kit Kats, Hershey’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Milky Ways, which means the first potential end-of-year obstacle didn’t present any problems.
  • With two months left in the year, I’ve already read the same number of books I read last year. That’s not as impressive as it could be, however — 2019 saw me read the smallest number of books I’ve read since 2010. It’s embarrassing to state that finishing 20 in 2020 would actually be the highest number since 2017. In fact, I’ll probably get started on my next book shortly after putting this post online.
  • One of my plans for later this evening is to simply put the Geek Tree out, without decorations. This will be the first holiday season for Otis, Charlie’s kitten, and we want to see how he chooses to interact with a tree before placing fragile decorations all over it. 
  • At Sally’s request, this year’s Christmas Lego display is simply going to be the new Diagon Alley set, with additions and alterations to give it a Christmas feel. The only problem is that the set is so big that it won’t all fit on the bookshelf. One or two of the buildings won’t make it, and I won’t know which ones until I start putting it together. Having said that, there is no way that Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes isn’t included. 
  • The dropping temperatures mean that our ability to find an outdoor table at a restaurant or bring takeout to a picnic table is rapidly decreasing. This also means that with the exception of going out for walks, there will be fewer opportunities to do anything outside of the house. As it is, I can do go days without leaving the house (other than to check the mail), and I’m not looking forward to the decrease in safe options for getting out of the house.

Something to Obsess About During the Pandemic

My body has ways of making it clear when it hasn’t properly been tended to for far too long — when the excess weight is more than just an inconvenience or annoyance. It did so during the early spring of 2011, and the health problems that surfaced in turn motivated me to drop 60 pounds. For most of the time since then, the desire to prevent those issues from happening again drove me to take significantly better care of myself than I ever had. 

But, like many people, I put on weight during the pandemic. Fortunately, that meant a small increase of between five and 10 pounds. However, that’s only because when the pandemic started my weight was already at its highest in over nine years. Without getting into the details, a few years ago a couple high-stress, chronic situations resulted in my employing the coping tactic that soothes me best: stress eating. Not that I want stress in my life, but it would be awesome if it resulted in the pounds shedding off rather than stacking up on each other as easily as LEGO Duplo bricks. Thank to this, when the pandemic started my weight was already the highest it had been since 2011.

A common sentiment going around these days is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for weight gain during such a stressful time — it’s more important that you maintain your mental health stability. Without question, I subscribed to it. By the start of this month, my weight was hovering roughly 10 pounds below my all-time peak. Then, on what should have been one of the best days since the start of the pandemic, my body decided to emphatically inform me that it was time to stop making excuses.

To be fair, it did send me a warning notice last month, when I experienced the worst hive attack I’ve had in years. At that time, Occam’s Razor provided the simplest explanation for my body freaking out: the months of cumulative stress brought about by living during a pandemic and mindfully trying to do all the right things (other than eating) finally became too much. Unfortunately, the simplicity of that explanation provided on easy excuse for me to ignore my physical fitness.

That purposeful lack of self-awareness came to a halt on Saturday, October 10, 2020. It should have been one of the best days of the year. It was my first day back in Philly since the pandemic started, Sally and Brandon were both there, I was seeing my dad for the first time since January, and the weather was exactly the kind we needed to safely spend most of our time in the city outdoors. When we did go into a few select shops, we felt relatively safe given that everyone was wearing masks, social distancing was readily evident, hand sanitizer was in ready supply, and the number of customers in them was actively being controlled.

Actually, it was the best day I’ve experienced since the pandemic started, but enjoyment of it was notably tempered by the fact that my sciatica announced its presence with authority throughout the day. The thing is that it’s only a problem when I’m grossly overweight and spending a significant amount of time on my feet — especially if most of that time is standing still or walking very slowly. To make matters worse, grabbing a table somewhere we could sit for a while and have a snack and beverage — the thing that would have best helped to alleviate the problem — simply wasn’t an option. Although we were able to settle on some solutions that eased some of the pain, such as simply sitting down for a half hour or so in the park immediately next to Christ Church in Old City, it didn’t lessen my overall frustration with simply having to deal with it.

That frustration and annoyance did not subside after returning home or during the following day. The more I thought about how the sciatica affected my day, the greater the frustration I felt about myself. So, much like the health problems back in 2011, that day in Philly is now motivating me to lose weight all the excess weight yet again. Using all the techniques that have worked in the past has already yielded results: I’m now down nearly 10 pounds in just 2½ weeks. Of course, knowing the holiday season is nearly here makes me question the wisdom of starting this endeavor at this time, but I also know to take full advantage of this kind of motivation.

So, I’m now obsessing about calories (both the quantity and kind of), getting enough exercise, and getting on the scale every morning. With some luck, the holidays won’t present too much of an obstacle. Hopefully, the next time I’m in Philly, the sciatica won’t flare up at all.

Notes from the Pandemic: Goodbye O’Faolain’s

After this pandemic started and its scope, potential duration, and repercussions became obvious to those being realistic about what was about to unfold, the permanent loss of many beloved shops and restaurants was an obvious certainty. It was going to happen. The only unknown was which places would close their doors for good.

This morning, I found out via posts made by its employees Facebook that last night O’Faolain’s Irish Pub and Restaurant became the first such casualty in my world.

Calling it my favorite Irish pub doesn’t properly convey its importance to me. It was literally and by far my favorite place to go for well over 10 years. Pub quiz, date nights, meeting up with friends, lazy Saturday afternoons reading a book while having cider and fries, and just plain needing to get out of the house… It was all of these things and more.

O’Faolain’s started to become a major part of my life in 2007. In the aftermath of my first marriage finally falling apart, what I needed most was a place to escape to when feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances of that time — which happened often. Before that event, it was just one of any number of places to go eat and have a couple drinks. However, the atmosphere, the fact that hard cider was on tap, the quality of the food, WiFi for public use, and the ability to settle in at somewhat secluded spot quickly made it my first choice when the need (and the opportunity) to flee the apartment arrived. It turned out to be the wonderfully cliched right place at the right time.

What made the serendipity of it all the more special is that I hadn’t had a favorite hangout since college. In the early ’90s, the Irish Pub on the 1100 block of Walnut Street in Philly (which coincidentally closed last summer) served as that focal point in life. Predominantly, it was the place my friends and I frequented to have drinks on a Friday or Saturday night, but it also served as a pleasant rest stop to enjoy some food, drink and maybe even a book after spending a few hours walking around the city. However, after moving to New York City in the summer of ’96, nothing else ever came close to replicating the importance the Irish Pub had during that time. There were certainly other places that saw plenty of my business, but none of them felt special in the same way.

O’Faolain’s became special while dealing with life as a refugee from a failed marriage. A number of evenings were spent there until it felt right to reenter the dating world. Copious amounts of cider and shepherd’s pie were consumed. Large chunks of books were read, and because this was the tail end of the LiveJournal era, a time when longer posts like this were far more frequent, thousands of sentences were strung together as well. Most importantly, it was where much necessary healing took place.

In retrospect, it all happened rather rapidly. In less than a year, it had become the most important place outside of home. Within less than two years, it became an integral part of my history when Sally and I had our first date there. Since then, there have been countless nights of trivia (with more than our fair share of victories), a couple friendships made, additional books read, Eagles games watched with Brandon, the much less frequent blog posts written, gatherings with friends and family, and even times where I went simply to fulfill the need of being by myself for a while in a place that felt comforting.

Alas, the last visit there was completely unremarkable, and I don’t recall exactly when it was or the reason for going. To merely know when it was, I will need to look at credit card statements from the month before O’Faolain’s thought it was closing its doors temporarily while it waited out the opening stages of the pandemic. There was no way to anticipate that it would be my last time there.

The official announcement placed this afternoon on their Facebook page attempted to strike a hopeful tone:

We ask for your understanding in this very difficult time for our hospitality industry and we look forward to providing “a little bit of Irish hospitality” in Sterling soon again. This does not mean the end.

I want to believe that it isn’t the end. However, looking at the situation realistically, the pandemic will go on for another year, at a minimum. At lot can happen in that time, despite current intents and plans. Realistically, it will be longer before it can return, and if it does, there’s no guarantee that it will be in the same location. Even if does, at best it will be something new that manages to be wonderfully reminiscent of the original. As good as it may be, it won’t be the same.

If I’m lucky, I will find some place like it again.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 75

“Everybody is a Ferengi now.” “The high holy church of unfettered capitalism.” Both are flippant remarks about the current state of America I’ve been muttering for a number of years. Sometime in the aftermath of World War II, a significant percentage of Americans began to see and defend our capitalist system with a kind of emotionally-driven religious fervor. We were the greatest country on earth, therefore our economic system must be the best that ever devised. However, no economic system is 100% stable. A variety of forces are always modifying and tweaking it. Groups of people, as well as extremely powerful individuals, constantly compete against each other in an effort to curb the system’s excesses, exploit and enrich themselves further, or simply to make minor tweaks to remove value-neutral inefficiencies.

Since Reagan’s election, however, those looking to exploit the system and modify it to further and entrench their personal enrichment have increasingly possessed the upper hand. It was at some point during the second Bush presidency that the effectiveness of there efforts became undeniably obvious to many of us. At that point, this country had been experimenting with trickle-down economics for 20 years, and the data showed an upward transfer of wealth was clear and undeniable. The richest 10% of the country owned more of the wealth than at any time since the Great Depression (the situation that’s only grown in severity since then.) Yet, many Americans had utterly bought into the notion that our capitalist system was the best and only way to do things. That was when I first started noting the Ferengi and religious aspects to what the American version of capitalism had become.

The truly gobstoppping thing, though, was how entrenched this blind fealty to the economy had become. This has been a godsend to the new oligarchy, which cannot exist if too many people do not have faith in the system. Should that happen, they will rebel eventually, in some form. The best way to inoculate the system from such dissent is to convince as many people as possible that they too can be just as rich and powerful if they just worked hard enough and smart enough. You don’t need to convince everybody; you just need to convince enough people to prevent the system from being completely overhauled. So far, they managed beautifully.

There is no better example of this than Jeff Bezos and his sprawling Amazon business empire. Amazon is literally the kind of company that anti-trust laws were originally established to combat. It long ago became something far more than an online retailer. Its tendrils infiltrate and inhabit our economy in a myriad of ways: they control an an steadily increasing share of the global Internet traffic; it is a significant media company, in the entertainment business both as a producer and distributor; it acts as a middleman to anybody who wants to sell on the Internet; it provides data hosting and cloud services to some of the worlds largest companies; it’s one of the world’s biggest aggregators  of individual’s data; it produces news; and it enriches Bezos personally at the rate of billions of dollars per month.

This is the type of Cthulu-like, multi-tentacled business that should be keeping people awake in fear at night. The reach and scope of their business is quite literally inescapable. Yet, people to continue to act as if Bezos has done nothing wrong. On a literal level, this is true: he has done nothing legally wrong. By those rules and laws. He has just been a shrewd businessman, and he deserves every penny he has made. Besides, hasn’t he made our life’s better, easier, and more enjoyable? What is the harm in that? By the high holy tenants of the religious belief in our economic system, he deserves every penny he owns. This isn’t hyperbole, by the way. I witnessed it myself last week in the comment section of a Facebook post which stated the need for proactively taking our business to away from Amazon. In retrospect, I wish I took a screenshot to illustrate the point.

These people see nothing wrong or disconcerting about the fact that Bezos is on the verge of becoming the worlds first trillionaire. He is accumulating massive amounts of wealth on a scale unseen since at least the Gilded Age — well over 100 years ago — and he continues to do so at a time when the economic inequality of our system is wrecking havoc upon peoples lives in a way not seen since the Great Depression. This becomes even more repugnant when you consider the ruthlessness and immoral treatment of the workers in his distribution centers in Amazon warehouses. The fact that those workers are getting infected by the coronavirus at higher rates than the majority of the population is well-documented. Yet, he is going to slash their meager “hazard” bonus in June. Apparently, he’s not making money fast enough.

Yet, Bezos is just a rather large symptom of a system that is horribly out of whack and unable to handle the current health and economic crisis. The religious fervor of those that support the billionaire class has blinded them to the reality of the fact that they are rubes who have been horribly duped. They are like the character Rom in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when advised by Federation officers to form a union and strike for higher pay. They refuse to acknowledge the full reality of their situation because they want to someday become the exploiters, even though the chances of that happening are realistically nil.

Sadly, this is just history repeating itself. The Great Depression happened primarily because the ultra rich got too greedy and in their efforts to enrich themselves created the conditions that allowed any major shock to bring it all crashing down. The collapse of the Weimar Republic and the ensuing economic shockwaves merely pushed over the first of a long chain of dominoes perfectly aligned to easily topple the global economy into disarray. A more stable and robust economic system could have better survived the shock to the system. This is not to say that there wouldn’t have been economic hardship, but the pain wouldn’t have been as bad. The same thing is happening here. The extreme greed and Smaug-like hoarding of wealth didn’t by itself start the collapse our economy is experiencing. However, it did mean that when the pandemic spiraled out of control, the system was horribly ill-equipped to handle the economic reverberations.

Frankly, it’s hard to see how the current situation doesn’t proceed along the path similar to that of the Great Depression. Even more disconcertingly, that event may even be less painful and trying than what we are currently facing. Aside from the rise in fascism and nationalism (look, more parallels!), humankind was not facing a slew of other challenges and crises that could very well spell the end of civilization as we know it. Global climate change, ecological collapse, environmental damage wrought by decades of a capitalism — especially in regards to convenience and disposability (planned obsolescence)… All these things were easily capable of eventually causing the exact same kind of shock to the system that COVID-19 did.

In short, what we perceived as normal for the past few decades (which, as noted before, was anything but constant or stable) is long gone. We are entering a new and scary period in human history. One that will require societal change on a level of magnitude that Europe underwent in the decades following the Black Death. Much like the nobility of that time, those who have most profited from the current system will fight tooth and nail to preserve everything they have achieved and “earned.” In much the same way the nobility ruthlessly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) used its connections to the church to bolster and defend their position from economic and societal change, today’s oligarchs will use the firmly established high holy cult of the American capitalist belief system in pursuit of similar goals.

Troubling and turbulent times lay ahead. In some ways, I feel like Sarah Connor gazing off into the distance of the desert at the end of the first Terminator movie. Dark times are coming, and it’s prudent to prepare for them. However the coming storm is like nothing that has come before. Short of becoming a full-blown prepper, how do you actually prepare to handle something of that magnitude? Or, is becoming a prepper the truly prudent course of action at this time?

Whatever the future holds, society has to become kinder and far more thoughtful. We have to be better than Ferengi, and we cannot allow ourselves to rely heavily on faith in that our way of doing things will just work out in the end. If we don’t, human civilization may very well be in a frightful state far sooner than many of us ever imagined.