Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Where the Roomba Never Goes 

KKK parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, August 8, 1925, from the Washington Post. See the original image on

Someone close to me recently took pleasure in pointing out an incredibly, neglected and dusty corner of my otherwise tidy home. How dusty? Think "theatrically dusty",  like when an abandoned haunted house in a movie has Egyptian-tomb levels of dust. While I was surprised, I knew the reason for this detritus. That was where the Roomba never goes. My friendly robot vacuum cleaner is a pretty terrible vacuum, but a terrible vacuum is fine as long as it vacuums more often than I would. Despite its intentions (or its programming), the Roomba can't vacuum everywhere, such as tight corners under end tables. It occurred to me this was a very handy analogy. The dusty parts of our society or even ourselves, are the places the Roomba never goes. Our experience with the pandemic has definitely exposed parts of our lives and society where the Roomba never goes. The places we've forgotten or overlooked are now the things we can't stop seeing.

One thing I’ve learned is how close so many people are to despair. Missing a single pay cheque means seeking a food bank or being without a home. On the other hand, the affluent don’t even realize their own wealth. There’s an old saying that to earn your first $100 is very hard but any idiot can make their second million. Money begets money. When you have a high-speed Internet connection and you work from your computer all day, it's easy to keep doing that. In fact, it's even easier than it was. I never liked working from home but over the years I've worked more and more with people who live elsewhere; San Jose, London, Bangalore, Minnesota, North Carolina. My day is easier than ever. If I want, I can wake up late and wander to my desk and start working. If I get sleepy and I have a break in the constant meetings, I can even take a nap on my own couch. I can start supper while on a call, I can do a load of laundry if I need to. All the while, I still get paid. I also have the added benefit of benefits, and as I work and live alone, it's really up to me if I work if I get sick. If I am too sick to work, I have plenty of time I can take off without losing my job or pay. It's been very eye-opening how few people have any of those supports. It seems pretty obvious now, but as a country, we need a drug plan not linked to employment, maybe even a guaranteed income (rather than a myriad of costly social programs that are trying to achieve the same goal), jobs that provide a living wage and guaranteed sick leave. Those things wouldn't solve all problems but it would go a long way to helping the most vulnerable.

I’ve also realized this year that the core belief of Libertarianism and many conservatives is selfishness. It’s never been about personal freedom for everyone, but simply personal freedom for “ME”. Everyone else can argue for their own freedom. One T***p supporter at the January 6th attack on the US Capitol building yelled repeatedly “This is MY house! Mine!” Well, he spoke his truth that his taxes pay for a public institution and that makes it his. No wonder they're so upset by taxes. They don’t know how taxes work. Also, it’s clear that conservatives hate paying for any common good but love using it. They don’t want to pay for anything anyone else uses but they are fine with using something that everyone else pays for. They apparently believe, their taxes, and only their taxes, pay for everything everyone else pays taxes for too.

There's also the "whataboutism" or "slippery slope" arguments of conservatism that shows they don't respect your intelligence enough to think you won't have noticed how dumb it is. Conservative critics constantly conflate socialism with either Nazism, Fascism and Communism. Which is it? Which political ideology is it that you don't understand? A funny quote from the recent film Mank seems appropriate: "You know the difference between a socialist and a communist right? Socialists want to share the wealth, but communists want to share the poverty." I'm also not sure which country they mean where basic social welfare policies have led to a "failed state"? Norway? Sweden? Finland? Denmark? Germany? France? The UK? Canada?

Another thing that has been made plain for everyone to see is that a lot of conservatives are bald-faced racists and liars. I'm not sure why ideas about small government are so against things like science, facts, data and why they are so aligned with white supremacy but they are. Sure, poor white folks are on the losing end of a global economy but no more than poor every-other-kind of folks. They are liars, in the sense that they lie to themselves about the conspiracy theories they spout and to anyone listening to their ridiculous theories, which they choose to believe as long as it furthers their goal of “Me First” politics (in fact, I'm sure they often don't believe those things but simply use them to foment discord). There was a strange but not unsurprising mix of constituencies surging towards the Capitol on January 6. Evangelicals, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, America First followers, Klansman, survivalists, QAnon conspiracists, anti-vaxxers, soccer moms and fans of POTUS marched together and whipped themselves into crowd-driven anger and a bizarre blood lust. Of course, not all people who want lower taxes are racist but they sure put up with a whole hell of a lot of racist colleagues simply because they want the same thing: Me First.

Another fact I have denied for a long time but is more clear than ever is that as many racists are female as are male. The vast majority of those who acted the Capitol insurgency were white men but at any MAGA rally or "Alt-right" forum, there are as many women as men yelling their dumb ideas. I genuinely thought women married to racists were implicated and generally coerced by their circumstances to go along with their partner’s stupid ideas. It’s obvious to me now that those women probably hooked up with a racist dude explicitly because he was racist. I assumed women as a group, long oppressed by male hegemony would understand the repressive ravages of racist thought. Whoops, my bad. Seeing racist ladies really made me aware of my underlying psychological biases about motherhood and sisterhood. Here's my new mnemonic device for reminding myself that women can be as bad as men: Margaret Thatcher was a woman.

It's a shame my Roomba can't reach every part of my house, but maybe it's good for me to get out the broom and really dig in all those corners for all the crap I've missed to really know myself and the dirt I leave behind.



Post a Comment

<< Home