Millenials, Minimalism, and Stuff

Why the current fad for minimalism does not “bring me joy.”

NOTE: Before I get started, I want to be upfront with the fact that I have not watched Marie Kondo’s show, or read her book. And I think a lot of the criticism that is directed her way has some weird racist and sexist overtones, and I really don’t want to add to that. And from what I understand, she’s not really a minimalist, minimalists just really dig her. My beef is not with Kondo, who I think seems to genuinely want to help people, but with the entire dialogue around minimalism. Also I’m gonna make some pretty sweeping generalizations in the following work, and I am aware of that. So please don’t @ me with “Not all of the 80s!” and “Not all millennials.” I’m aware. Chill.

Let’s tell a story together. Let’s say that we’re millennials (which at this point is an infantilizing term that means that we were born in the early 80s to the mid-90s, which means that we’re in our early 20s to late 30s at this point.) We were born into… interesting… times. The 80s weaponized conspicuous consumption, and valorized greed. A loosening of broadcast legislation meant that television for children could basically be a 25-minute ad, interspersed with smaller, 30-second ads. We were encouraged to identify with glorified commercials, because that would mean we wanted more Stuff. The watchword was “more.” More TV stations, more stores in the mall, more Stuff.  He Who Had the Most Stuff was the Best Person. Trickle down economics was totally going to work, and didn’t we want to take regulations off so that “job creators” could fix things? That was (after all) the best way to get us more Stuff.

If you were a kid in the 90s, you grew up in a world that seemed to be endlessly expanding, endlessly consuming, and endlessly competing. We got “participation trophies,” not because we wanted them (we knew that they were “thanks for entering, but you sucked” prizes. We weren’t oblivious.) but because our parents couldn’t stand to think that their progeny wasn’t special. That their own parenting wasn’t reflected in an object that could be held and taken home, that could be placed on a mantel and shown to others. How could our parents know that we were good children if we didn’t have Stuff to show for it?

We lived through, and participated in, multiple crazes that focused around two things: gathering lots of Stuff and keeping it forever. We were told that Beanie Babies, Furbies, Pokémon cards, and variant comic book covers were things that We Had to Have. We had to be the person with the most, and the best. And we should hold onto these things for years and years, because they would only grow in value over time.

We were pushed in carts around giant shrines to Stuff—bulk-buying stores were trumpeted as the smartest choice in shopping. Why buy a jar of mayonnaise when you could buy a quart? Why buy a pack of toilet paper when you could buy a crate of it? It would be cheaper, overall, to buy more of the Stuff at once, and again, keep it for a long time.

Behind the scenes, economic changes were happening that we were unaware of. Globalization and trade meant that the market was flooded with more and cheaper Stuff. Sure, a lot of that Stuff was really shitty, but it was cheap, which meant we could get more of it. The economy forcibly moved away from ideas like “repair” and “reuse.” Why repair your vacuum, when it is cheaper to get a new one? And why build a vacuum that will work for many years, when you know that your customer is just going to buy a new one? Planned obsolescence was much better than quality for all of those “job creators.” People wouldn’t complain (too much) about their jeans wearing out after just a year when it was fairly cheap to buy new jeans.

The increased monopolization of various industries meant that what appeared to be different products really, really weren’t, and price was no longer a good indication of value. Those $200 boots were made in the same factory as those $20 boots, and fall apart about as fast. There was no good way to determine how much “bang” you were actually getting for your buck.

We were told that we absolutely had to go to college if we wanted to succeed at life. Coincidentally, Sallie Mae was privatized in the 1990s, encouraging students to take loans that they couldn’t afford, all in the name of profit. Kids who weren’t old enough to buy cigarettes or drink were encouraged to take on loans they couldn’t possibly pay off, and subsequent decades of lobbying ensured that these loans couldn’t be erased like other types of loan, or even dissolved in bankruptcy.

The minimum wage stayed stagnant, even as inflation ballooned. Gas prices rose. 9/11 happened, and the War on Terror seemed to hurt rather than help the economy. But we should still keep buying Stuff, we were told. Buying Stuff would help.

And we did what we were told. We took out loans, we bought Stuff, we went to college, and we waited for the Success to happen to us. The Success that happened to everyone before us. And then the economy tanked. And most millennials still haven’t recovered, and never will recover.

We were raised in a culture that idealized Stuff, and related consumption to success. We have been encouraged our entire lives to purchase and keep things. Our minimum wage is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it’s a better option for us to buy multiple cheap things than try to buy one more expensive thing, because we have no guarantee that the expensive thing will be better. We can’t repair things when they break, either because either it’s too expensive, there’s no one able to repair it, or some multi-billion corporation will void our warranty if we try to fix our own objects. We’re struggling to find jobs, crushed under loans, and doing our best to get by.

We have closets full of cheap clothing, because we know that it is going to wear out but we can’t afford to do laundry at the laundromat too often, and we don’t want to take the chance of spending a day’s paycheck on a single shirt that is still going to fall apart. We hold on to old shoes, computers, and furniture, because we don’t know if the current stuff we have is going to break worse than the old stuff we’re keeping around, and we might need the old thing to replace the new thing at any point. We have shelves full of college books because we weren’t going to get anything near what we paid for them if we tried to sell them back. We buy in bulk whenever we can, because we were taught to, and because it will hopefully ultimately be cheaper for us.

And into this enters minimalism. Getting rid of as much as you can, living “simply,” and de-cluttering your life.

Let me make something clear: there are two ways that you can live “minimally.” You can either (a) be too poor to buy enough things to have clutter (in which case your minimalism is probably not an active choice) or (b) you are rich enough that you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry about things like buying replacements when something breaks or wears out, or buying in bulk to save money. It means you have the time, energy, and money to find fewer objects of obvious quality instead of many cheap objects.

Minimalism is either a punishment or a privilege.

And it wouldn’t upset me so much, if it weren’t for the fact that minimalism is going the way of veganism, Paleo diets, natural birth, organic food, breastfeeding, and yoga—in that a lot of people are totally capable of doing the thing without making it a moral judgment about everyone around them, and a different lot of people Are Seriously Not Able to Do The Thing Without Being an Asshole. Minimalism is becoming a purity cult, where enacting minimalism is associated with personal goodness and moral virtue. Which is bullshit.

We were raised to worship Stuff. We entered an economy where we had no choice but to cling to Stuff. And then a lot of the same people who raised us that way, who messed up the economy that way, are now telling us that we’re not good people unless we can live in a minimalist lifestyle. Which is a lot like a bully telling their victim to stop hitting themselves.

This does not bring me joy.

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Featured image is of the aisle of a Dollar Store and is released under a CC-BY 2.0 license by Random Retail.

Why Didn’t They Report? Math. (And Lots of Other Reasons, Too)

This week we’re going to talk about math. Well, kinda. We’re going to talk about reporting sexual assault, which has to start with math.

 

This week we’re going to talk about math. Well, kinda. We’re going to talk about reporting sexual assault, which has to start with math.

Imagine that you have 1000 sexual assault survivors. Of that 1000, only 310 will ever report. And our president wants to know why! Why, if a sexual assault happened, would you not report? Well the first answer to that question involves more math. See, out of that original 310 survivors who report, only 57 of those reports will lead to an arrest. That’s… not good odds. Then of that 57 that lead to an arrest, only 11 will be referred to a prosecutor. Of that 11, only 7 will lead to a conviction. Of that 7, only 6 will see jail time. So doing some of that math, if you are sexually assaulted, there is a .006% percent chance that your perpetrator will go to jail. Most of us wouldn’t even carry an umbrella if there was only a .006% chance of rain, let alone put ourselves through the physical, mental, and emotional trauma of reporting a sexual assault for that low of a success rate.

But let’s say you take those odds, and you go to trial. What happens then?

Well if you’re the survivor of an attack by Alaskan man Justin Schneider, you see him get a plea deal that leads to no jail time, after he’s been accused of “kidnapping, choking, and sexually abusing” you.

If you’re Brock Turner’s victim, you get to see him get six months in jail, because he has such a bright future ahead of him.

If you’re Andrea Constand, you get to see every decision you’ve ever made get torn apart.

And there are so many who don’t even get to the trial stage before their lives are torn apart, or their words mean nothing to others. Almost two dozen women reported Trump sexually assaulting or harassing them, and that man still became president.

He became president, and THEN he decided to go on Twitter and demand to know why Christine Blasey Ford didn’t report sooner. Because sometimes people exist with actually negative levels of capacity for shame.

In response, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport started to trend. And I can’t do the original posts justice, but here is a short list of some of the reasons people didn’t report their sexual assault:

Because they feared that their family members would murder the perpetrator.

Because their perpetrator was in a position of power over them.

Because they told someone and got ignored.

Because it could ruin their career.

Because their perpetrator threatened them.

Because their perpetrator was a family friend.

Because their perpetrator was a family member.

Because they were in the middle of a combat zone, assaulted by peers and superior officers.

Because they were afraid they would be blamed.

Because the perpetrator was their partner.

There are a million and one reasons that these women chose not to report. And we have already failed a lot of these women. But we have to start making it up to them. We have to start believing them. And we have to start changing a lot of the cultural and systemic reasons that stopped them from reporting.

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Featured image of a piece of art reading a + b ≠ c by Alan Levine is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Feminist Friday: Move to Wyoming! (No, I’m Not Kidding)

Author’s Note: I liiiiiive! Sorta. I resemble someone who is living. Sorry for the hiatus; Life Stuff happened. I’ll try to return us to our regularly scheduled ranting.

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Wyoming is tied with Utah for being the most Republican state in the US. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index we are an R+25. I’m not quite sure what that means, other than that we are hella Republican. In the last election, even some of our most liberal counties went hard for Trump. On the Federal level, our last Democratic Senator stopped serving in 1977. (We’ve never had a female national Senator, btw). We only get one Representative, and our last Democrat Representative stopped serving in 1978. (Our last three Representatives have all been women, and have all been poster children for “why being a woman doesn’t mean you’re good for other women.”) We have a weird habit of switching between Republican and Democratic governors, but we’ve been firmly in the hands of the Republicans since 2011, aka, “the almost-decade in which our economy caught on fire and every social service faced cuts.” We actually lost Democrat seats at the local level in the last election. Our state Senate has 30 seats, and 27 are currently held by Republicans. We have a 60-member House, of which 51 members are Republican. If you are currently a Democrat in Wyoming, you are screwed.

Other Democrats might look at this situation and see and irredeemable cesspool of entrenched Republicanism. A lot of Democrats have—we experience pretty severe “brain drain” and even more severe “Democrat drain” where people with mindsets similar to mine look around at a state that represents their values in almost no way, shape, or form, and says “I’m getting the fuck out of here.” And I genuinely don’t blame them.

But I don’t see an irredeemable situation. I see an opportunity.

One of our problems, as Democrats, is that we have the numbers, but not the spread. Clinton won by millions of votes, but those votes were squished up into California, New York, etc. We needed them in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We win by giant margins in major metropolitan areas, but end up overwhelmed by the opposing party in the state legislature. After fleeing to liberal enclaves, we watch in horror as middle America votes against its own interests with a stubbornness that is usually reserved for movies about underdog boxers. If we really want to change politics on both a national and a local level, we need to be spreading out, readjusting balances of power, and making Republican wins a lot harder to come by.

There is no easier place to do this than in Wyoming. With the addition of a comparatively small number of Democrats over a wide area, we could flip the entire state.

On the surface, we’re not the most obvious choice for a giant influx of fresh-faced social justice warriors. The lead that Republicans have in the state is large—Trump won by almost 120,000 votes in Wyoming, whereas he won by only 100,000 votes in Montana and only about 37,000 votes in Alaska, two states with somewhat similar populations and political temperaments. Ostensibly either of those states would be a better destination.

But that doesn’t account for the chances for a total state flip. I’m talking city, state, and national politicians. The governor. The county commissioners. The county attorneys. Hell, the coroners. When I die, I want the person digging through my body to believe that I deserved control over said body during my life.

Wyoming is the least populated state in the United States. We have roughly 579,000 people, with just over 263,000 registered voters. In comparison, Alaska and Montana have almost as many registered voters (or more registered voters) than Wyoming has citizens, at roughly 528,000 and roughly 700,000, respectively. That means that every additional Democrat in Wyoming has at least twice the impact that they would have in another state.

An influx of roughly 150,000 (something that sounds huge right now, but is a bit more modest when compared to other state migration rates) could not only ensure a Democrat won our “per capita-outsizedly powerful but usually technically useless” three electoral votes, but could ensure that we won our lone House Representative seat (Republican Liz “She Doesn’t Even Go Here” Cheney won over her Democratic opponent Ryan Green by roughly 80,000 votes) both of our Senate seats (Barrasso and Enzi won over their opponents with 130,000 votes and 92,000 votes, respectively) and take up residence in the governor’s mansion (Matt Mead beat his opponent by 55,000 votes.)

At the local level, the effect could be even more pronounced. Most of the state Senators and Representatives won their seats by margins of less than 10,000 votes. In one race, by barely more than 50 votes. Some of my most hated foes in the state Senate and House won by margins that would seem pathetic in other states—Senator Bouchard won by less than 400 votes, Senator Bebout by less than 5,000 votes, and Representative Clem by less than 3,000 votes. One of the Representatives I hate the most, the anti-abortion fanatic Representative Steinmetz, was unopposed. That is just sad. All of these could be turned around almost instantaneously with some strategic Democrat migration.

Now I won’t lie: the move might be bumpy for some. We’re mostly known for terrible things happening. Montana keeps trying to steal all of our Yellowstone glory. Kanye released his last album here. And as I mentioned before, our economy is currently on fire. We hitched our economic wagon to the oil and gas industry long ago and have refused to unhitch it, even as we pass “unwise” and hurtle towards “are you fucking kidding me?” Both jobs and housing might be initially a bit hard to come by (it would really, really help if the Democrats who moved here were independently wealthy or had telecommuting jobs.) But we don’t have an income tax, so if you actually find a job, you get to keep a lot of your money.

And hey, given the direction that climate change is taking us in, there’s a good shot that Wyoming will one day be the new California, and won’t you be glad you invested in some “soon-to-be beach-front property? (Am I doing “optimism” right? I don’t think I’m doing it right.)

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Featured image of a map of Wyoming is in the Public Domain and can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

Trump Is Separating Families and Putting Children into Camps

Trump is separating families and putting children into camps. Call your Congresspeople to stop this. NOW.

 

 

Trump is separating families and putting children into camps. Call your Congresspeople to stop this.

 

 

 

 

Oh, you wanted more? Why? What more does anyone possibly need to say? Trump is putting children into camps. Hell, not even camps soon—tent cities. You know, like those things Joe Arpaio put prisoners in, and even then we said it was inhumane?

ICE agents are separating breastfeeding mothers from their infants. They’re telling parents that they are going to give their children a bath; they take the children and never return them. Godwin’s Law is dead in its grave because this is literally what the Nazis did.

I’m an English major, and I don’t have words for how wretched this is. I’m almost numb with helplessness and horror. But I’m not numb enough to keep from contacting my elected representatives. So you should do that, too.

Signed: Feminist Fury (with extra fury this week)

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Featured image is of the ICE logo with the words ABOLISH ICE superimposed, CC0 (Public Domain)

 

I Don’t Know How To Convince You That “Privilege” Isn’t An Insult

It’s just a way of describing the systemic power differences that we need to address.

 

Hey there, fellow white folks. Can we talk about “privilege” for a second? Because I really feel like we need to. Mostly because of the way people react when I bring it up.

I feel like a lot of the time, when I try to talk about privilege (especially white privilege, but also straight privilege, cisgender privilege, male privilege, and so on) that people get up in arms about it.

“Privileged? Me?”

They take it as an insult. As though I’m saying they didn’t work hard in their life.

I need everyone to understand that privilege doesn’t mean prosperity. When someone says you’ve got privilege because you’re white, it doesn’t mean you’ve got an easy life. It just means you’ve got a relative advantage over someone in your identical situation who isn’t white.

Maybe you’re white and poor. Life is definitely hard for poor people in America. And being white probably doesn’t help you enough for you to feel it. But being black and poor? In America? In general that’s going to be (at the very least) a little bit harder than being white and poor. That’s the privilege part.

This does not mean that all white people have it easier than all nonwhite people. I think maybe that’s what you’re hearing, and it’s not what we’re saying.

I feel like when I say the words “white privilege” you hear “you’ve got it easier than [insert wealthy black celebrity here].” I am not saying that.

(Though I think I am going to point out that plenty of the wealthy black people you’ve heard of started off poor. Jay Z? Raised in the projects. Oprah? I mean for real poor.)

Or maybe you think I’m saying that being white is more advantageous than being rich? No, again, I’m not saying that, though it’s worth pointing out that it’s relatively harder for people of colour to escape poverty than white people. But it’s not easy for anyone.

See, each kind of privilege is a sometimes small but definitely persistent advantage a person can have over another in the same situation. That’s all.

Is it the word privilege people hate? Is it because folks have been denigrating people from other situations as “privileged” for years and now they hate the word?

Would it be an easier sell if we called it “relative advantage”? “Systemic advantage”?

How do we address this, other than to give it a name? And how do we move forward with a more equal society if we ignore it? This is something that has to be reckoned with.

So, friends, I’m asking you to understand what privilege is. Understand that it’s not an insult. It’s not personal. It’s not saying you don’t work hard, or that your life is easy. It’s putting a name to a systemic set of relative advantages and disadvantages that, when put together, work to make the world we live in less equal.

And getting rid of inequality is something everyone should want.

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Featured image is of the words “This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never'” projected on a brick wall, is by J. G. Park, and is in the public domain. 

A New Beginning

Dear Readers,

If you’re here, it’s because you decided to give us a chance on our new project. Thanks for that. This Week In Tomorrow was, after nearly four and a half years, getting to be a little stuck in its ways, and it didn’t afford us much ability to change and adapt to the world and to ourselves.

We’ll still be posting about a lot of the same content—especially Elle: her Feminist Friday and Ellements of Film posts will definitely be continuing.

What you’ll see less of is the Sunday news roundup. Last week’s was, unfortunately, the last. When we started This Week, a basic roundup of the latest cool science and technology news wasn’t so easy to find. These days, they’re a dime a dozen. So instead you’ll be getting less summary and more opinion, less technology and more social commentary.

And I’ll probably talk more about things that interest me—autism, cryptocurrencies, rockets, anime, economics, politics, anything. Whatever crosses my mind that week.

This Week In Tomorrow won’t be coming down, at least, not soon. But there won’t be any new content there. Its time has come. We hope you’ll continue to follow us Into the Void.

Sincerely,

Richard and Elle.