On Committing Suicide

Those that know me, know that I am both bold and resolute. I stand by my thoughts / comments, yet I attempt to keep an open mind, analyze a situation, self-reflect on any biases, and integrate feedback. I even go so far as to analyze my confidence level, see predictionbook.com.

With that in mind. I want to share how utterly angry and helpless I feel —

I can’t share my true thoughts, hell my analysis, of the current political situation in the U.S. Although I have written on it countless times, I end up deleting the posts.

Why?

It’s not safe to share thoughts.

State of Affairs

Today, sharing one’s opinion can cost you your livelihood, your ability to communicate, and more.

Historically, that was always true, perhaps more-so. We’re now returning to the status quo — repression.

Today’s flavor of repression is one where offending someone randomly across the globe, can cost you your job. That person may not have a standing in your community and may not have a relationship with your employer. However, they can amplify their voice, tweet your employer, and your employer (scared out of its mind by the current situation) will terminate you. That is the state of affairs today. It doesn’t matter if you’re correct or innocent. It doesn’t even matter if 99.9% of people aren’t offended by what you said — we are now in a world of “cancel culture“.

Finding Middle Ground

In the United States in 2020, we have two paths. One path leads to an ever more left-leaning populous “uprising”; the other path leads to an ever more right-leaning populous “uprising”. I don’t see an alternative, outside of some quite-frankly comical alternatives (e.g. President Mitt Romney, with VP Bernie Sanders).

One way or another, I lose. No one is speaking up for my beliefs or representing me.

I sense I’m not alone. Everyone I speak to left or right, hates the current state of affairs. Most of us even agree on why we distrust the system. Unfortunately, we can’t elect someone to fix the system. Neither Trump, nor Biden, nor Bernie, nor anyone on the ballot accurately represents or even inspires us.

By and large, I believe this is due to the “absolute” nature of our current social strife. Take the question:

Why can’t I be anti-vaccine and pro-choice?

You would suspect everyone would agree that we “own” our bodies. If that were true, then you would effectively have to be pro-choice AND support people’s right to choose what to put in their bodies; body ownership is the middle ground. I wish we could coalesce around the middle ground, then compromise on edge cases, enabling progress.

Take another example:

Why don’t we do firearms training in schools?

It’s an honest question — we’ve had the 2nd amendment for hundreds of years. Similar to driving a car, we should train our youth to handle firearms. I suspect we all know the reason this is not occurring — because a significant portion of the United States is fearful of firearms.

From the evidence, the fear is unjustified. We have evidence that with a good training program and robust mental evaluation process, firearms by-and-large are safe for society. See Switzerland:

Swiss males grow up expecting to undergo basic military training, usually at age 20 in the recruit school..

…Prior to 2007, members of the Swiss Militia were supplied with 50 rounds of ammunition for their military weapon in a sealed ammo box that was regularly audited by the government…

…Every person with a Swiss citizenship, aged 10 years or older, can take part at any federal ranges and will be able to shoot for free with the ordinance rifle…

…In 2016, there were 187 attempted and 45 completed homicides, for a homicide rate of 0.50 per 100,000 population, giving Switzerland one of the lowest homicide rates in the world…

Further, firearms are already widely available (300+ million guns in the U.S.) & availability enshrined in law.

Sorrowfully, evidence doesn’t matter here; fear guides many. Yoda has some insights here:

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

— George Lucas (Yoda)

The False Dichotomy

I don’t agree with the left or the right on many things in United States politics. In fact, I find most of the arguments a false dichotomy, designed to garner votes. To share one’s full thoughts would cause either or both sides to lash out, even though evidence may support the claims / musings.

Regretfully, this leaves me and many others out of the public discourse. While most of us have heard,

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

— Edmund Burke (attributed)

It’s not quite that simple and I prefer another sentiment:

A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.

— Martin Luther King Jr.


Truthfully, we’re all being held hostage. I am very confident few people fully agree with either side in this political theater. We have extremists on either side shouting and being amplified by social media. In truth, the vast majority of us don’t agree [fully] with either extreme. Most of us, want to “live and let live” — that’s the American way. We’re a country founded on our hatred for taxes and the desire to live free from persecution. Please, please.. Don’t let that change.

It’s easy to decide “what’s right” when you look at it through that lens — am I persecuting others or increasing taxes (arguably a form of persecution)? If either are true, likely we should reconsider our stance.

The Chaos

Today, we are edging towards chaos. We all feel it. Riots, job loss, deadly diseases, [trade] wars, homelessness… We need leadership that can unite us.

Unfortunately, many of our would-be leaders have opted out or have been pushed out of this system. They’ve become engineers, scientists, bloggers — too scared to share their opinions (even shutting down). To hold a nuanced opinion different from the “socially accepted” by one group or another will get you “canceled”. In this case, “canceled” can mean anything from losing your job, to losing financial platforms/instruments (i.e. PayPal, VISA, YouTube revenue, etc.), to receiving threats on your life.

We have an ongoing pandemic, with millions in the United States likely about to perish, the economy collapsing, and we still cannot escape the politics.

I’m not hopeful.

I have so many musings, stories, and analyses I’d like to share, but neither facts nor my opinions matter.

Let’s be honest —

  • I’m a white, cisgender, straight, male
  • I work as a technical manager in a research group, at a bank
  • I’m socially liberal in many ways and conservative in others
  • I grew up lower-middle class; now, I’m upper-middle class
  • I don’t attribute myself to any political party

A large number of people dismiss or overlook me because of my background. Those who don’t outright dismiss me are also not likely to support my interest(s).

Meritocracy or Bust

What scares me is that I am a father and I am fearful for my children’s future. I was raised with the understanding that America is a meritocracy. Regardless of your race, gender, or creed, you should have the ability to make a life in the United States, to build a future for your children. Sadly, I don’t see the same core mission today. None of the political parties or the government at large appears forward-looking, for the children. Perhaps, that’s because of a declining birthrate, I’m not sure.

As someone with children, I’m pleading for a group to come together to challenge the current status quo and equitably look to improve our society. We do have systemic problems that need to be fixed. Compromises will need to be made, but I don’t believe we need sacrifices from anyone.

The racism and sexism needs to stop. I suspect, most of us (though, not all) want a meritocracy, a hierarchy based on merit. Unfortunately, what’s being propagated is a hierarchy based on race, sex and orientation — the under-privileged. It’s clear from the countless stories we see in the news. I am sure you are tired of the racism, as am I. That’s probably true regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall.

No one’s value to society should be assessed by their race, gender or creed. A person’s value should be based off what they have to offer to a given group, organization, or society. We can rally around that idea (that we’re all equal, differentiated on merit) and work to improve. It’s a middle ground we can [mostly] agree on. From there, we can fix the injustices.

What horrifies me, is that even to express that “we’re all equal” is a challenge to this new socio-economic hierarchy. No one is representing me or has my family’s best interests in mind. Realistically, I don’t expect anyone to have my family’s interests in mind, but I don’t want my potential / rights eroded.

Due to this political tug of war, both sides of the political spectrum want to diminish our rights; they’re only bickering over which rights to diminish. Let’s stop this tug of war and come together.

If we don’t come together, soon enough we won’t have a democracy, or frankly, a future to build for.

In the Words of John Adams…

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

— John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

4 thoughts on “On Committing Suicide

  1. I cannot believe you wrote a web page that reads my mind and converts it into text! This is the most amazing technology I have ever seen. It literally scanned all my chaotic thoughts and emotions over the last couple of months and distilled them into a series of coherent, well written sentences that convey exactly what I wanted to say, but didn’t know how to say it. You are either the most amazing programmer in the world, or an excellent essayist. Either way, thank you.

  2. Meritocracy as a value assessment for society can be as bad variable as “race, gender or creed”.

    “A person’s value should be based off what they have to offer to a given group, organization, or society.”

    That sounds really awful to me, as I imagine an inclusive, emphatic, supportive society as something to stretch towards to.
    The disabled, the sick, the lazy, the cynics etc. should all be included and valued in my opinion.

    1. I think what you’re discussing is a slightly tangential discussion and somewhat reductionist. I’m arguing that the hierarchy of a company (and possibly society — jury is still out) should likely be based on merit. At least merit seems generally acceptable to everyone.

      There can be social safety nets or familial support, but that doesn’t mean we put the sick & disabled in charge of our corporations.

      That being said, the sick, disabled, the lazy, can also provide value to others, in some form. And as a society we should strive to ensure they provide value, where possible.

      For instance, today, the unemployed can receive food stamps (for free), perhaps instead we should have them label sample data for ML models (if possible). Easy to do and can provide massive improvements to society. They can provide value to society at large and society in turn and provide them sustenance – an equitable trade.

      My general point, is that as a society we should seek to not just value people for their existence, but rather create a system where everyone in the society can benefit from working together. More-over I’d even argue as a society we should try and improve one another such that our merits increase.

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