The entire novel can be read at
The alarm of Shelley’s iPhone has been going off for several minutes now, and she is just staring at it, watching it rattle on her night stand, barking, because its ring tone is switched to “bark” mode. It is about eightish. Her side of the condo is still somewhat dark because of the position of the earth in relation to the sun’s gravitational orbit.
Her mother is in the kitchen preparing coffee, talking on her cellphone with a client, or a friend, her voice is somewhat muffled through the strong wooden door of Shelley’s room, which is shut.
She hugs her stuffed panda very tightly, conscious of the fact that she is wearing long-sleeved pink pajamas, and that it is winter. She feels the temperature has dropped noticeably by now, since it is early December.
“Shelley! You’ve got to turn off your alarm honey,” her mom says, opening the door to her room, and switching to “off” the alarm setting of her Rose Gold iPhone.
“Mom,” Shelley whines, “don’t shut the phone off.” She rolls over on the bed and implores her mother by searching for her eyes through her tortoise-shell glasses. “Please.”
“You don’t want me to turn your phone off?” She asks? “Okay honey, I just turned off the alarm because it was being really loud.”
“Don’t turn the phone off though, mom. Omar hasn’t called me back yet, I was supposed to wait for him.”
“You know, I really don’t get it, I don’t get this whole you having an iPhone thing. You’re ten years old. You know that? Your only social life is supposed to be homework, and gymnastics.”
“Mom. Omar is my boyfriend. He really cares about me. He gave me the iPhone so that we could have a long distance relationship. Since he lives in Persia.”
“I know, honey,” Shelley’s mom says. “And he sounds like a nice boy. It was super generous of him to give you the phone. It sounds like he really cares about you, and how cool is it that he’s only one year older than you?” She is in her mid 40s, and her blond highlighted hair is tied back in a long pony-tail. She is wearing a beige turtleneck with a green Christmas garland broach that has red glossy mistletoe, and tall brown Ugg boots over form-fitting jeans.
Shelley’s mom’s voice is also kind of whiny. She is wearing Chanel lipgloss, and her teeth are perfectly whitened, and she is at the moment aligning them with Invisalign braces. Shelley can notice it, meanwhile knowing that other people might not, at first glance. Shelley knows about all the cosmetic dermatology and beauty products her mother uses, including what level and brand of SPF she uses for tanning vs. daily wear. She knows she uses Botox. Shelley’s mom goes for manicures and pedicures and gets her hair done while Shelley goes to gymnastics every day. Shelley’s mom has a beauty ritual scheduled for every single day of the week, except for Sunday, which is the day they stay at home and watch T.V.
Every morning, Shelley looks with her mother at her mother’s reflection in the mirror, and looks for the most subtle signs of aging by analysing her facial expressions.
Shelley’s mom, Yolanda, will look somewhat worried, and her hands will shake a little when she’s doing something like finding the key to the ignition of her car, a yellow Ford Mustang. She will drive her daughter all the way to school and drop her off without even saying anything to her. Her mood could last like this for entire days if her mother doesn’t feel that she looks rested enough, and this is really stressful for Shelley, who must go through her entire gymnastics class being well-behaved and devotedly attentive to every detail of advice and guidance given to her by her coaches and peers.
Not only are days like this very trying for Shelley, they are also very scary. Because if she lets herself be too distracted by concern over her mom, for things like whether she took her anti-anxiety medicine or whether it is not the medicine that is causing her mother to have the range in moods that she does (an ironic consequence of the medicine: that in some “rare cases” it could bring out and even worsen the very symptoms it is designed to improve, mitigate, cure, or guard against), or whether her mother is paying sufficient attention to Miami traffic if she is on the highway that day, God forbid someone on a phone crashed into her car, luckily it is yellow, then Shelley herself could have an accident at gymnastics class, which could make her permanently paralyzed, or even be fatal.
Monday, December 12, 2016
The stigma associated with homelessness here in Dallas, TX, and the prejudice and disrespect that comes with it, is possibly the greatest barrier preventing people who fall into this class from advancing in our modern capitalist society.
For one thing, it takes a lot of effort and encouragement from neighbors and friends in the world, for any one person simply to function on a day to day basis. Social approval, even for people in the middle and upper classes, is very important to individuals’ ability to perform the roles required of them by contemporary life.
Aristotle describes beauty (virtue) and health as the most important prerequisites for happiness in life.
“We may define happiness as prosperity combined with virtue; or as independence of life; or as the secure enjoyment of the maximum of pleasure; or as a good condition of property and body, together with the power of guarding one’s property and body and making use of them. That happiness is one or more of these things, pretty well everybody agrees.” (Book I, Chapter 5) (http://rhetoric.eserver.org/aristotle/rhet1-5.html)
When I went through the domestic violence and homeless shelter system here in Dallas, I noticed symptoms of a marked lack of agency among the clients at various facilities that I attended during my time of need, lack of agency which was most noticeable in the attitude of fawningness and timidness on the part of the residents towards staff there, or hostility, when residents did not feel themselves to be sufficiently understood by staff.
I am not sure about the statistics regarding what percentage of homeless and domestic violence victims have alcohol and substance abuse problems, but I do know that the shelter system here in Dallas has little tolerance for substance of abuse of any kind, and having been to college for 9 years (despite that I did not get my Masters after being at O.U. for 5 years, changing majors 3 times, and attempting and ALMOST completing exactly two theses in the English Department) with very real aspirations of one day becoming a doctor, I know that the last thing people need who go through shelter systems of any kind, homeless, or domestic violence, is people judging them or morally condemning them if they are caught drinking or suspected of prior drug use.
The lax attitude towards the protection of clients’ backgrounds in Dallas shelters is markable, and suffocating.
This is not to say that I am claiming myself to have witnessed specific instances in which I heard staff discuss clients’ backgrounds, this is to say that I sensed a general feeling of blame projected towards Dallas Shelter clients by staff, and each other, (I know this is not empirical, but there is a chance that a survey or more objective method of evaluation might produce findings similar to mine) this impression was based on staff and clients communicating their awareness of the fact that people were victims of circumstances or instances of bad luck that led to them being in the shelter system in the first place.
Nietzsche talks about performance theory, and so does Judith Butler (she discusses performativity as it relates to gender), W.E.B. DuBois promotes the “double consciousness” theory of black identity, which African Americans must have in order to function in society (#1 to wear, perform, a mask of “consciousness” about the fact that they are black and #2 contribute by their performance to the dialogue surrounding blackness and their interpretation of the significance of race plus their role/degree of involvement within/regarding this social issue).
In the literary world of Ayn Rand the objectivist philosopher who inspired the politics of the American Libertarian Party, privacy and the suspension of moral condemnation of oneself and others are both hugely important issues to her characters. For instance, in the Fountainhead, the protection of dreams in the form of intellectual capital is perhaps the subject of the biggest test that Howard Roark must face. Throughout the entire novel he is forced to prove that he will not relegate to anyone else his vision of what “pure” architecture must be and do, and not concede to those who expect him to apologize for his passion and ambition.
During his hero’s journey, Howard Roark must at times turn his back on the values projected by a ruling social class (structures) with which he disagrees (ostentatiousness without purpose, form without function) and even find himself in moments of total self denial (similar to Joe, the writer in Sunset Boulevard) performing manual labor in a show of great humility towards and love for the way even the most remote material relationship between construction work and architecture serves to inform and strengthen his awareness of, sensitivity towards, the rules that govern his beloved art: Architecture, and everything it means.
Howard Roark finds himself doing work that is other than what he was trained to do and what he studied in school, but he accepts that he must do so for the long term survival of his trademark attitude of self respect and independence:
It is the freedom intrinsic in the designs of Howard Roark’s buildings that typify them, and for him to be a hypocrite to that in his daily life or betray that immortal value in any way, would be tantamount to him betraying his very art and work.
Ayn Rand seems to imply that Howard Roark’s work would lose all value, and his existence would be pointless if he sold himself out, since he would be pandering to false ideals. This would add to the great evil that Rand portrays herself as trying to fight against.
What we can learn from the Fountainhead is that very frequently in life, people have to accept a material setback in order to (achieve gain, but also, to) avoid an even greater consequence of fate: the loss of personal pride regarding a specific issue or value in life.
It is a real crime that homelessness must be the consequence of people taking certains stances in life or making certain life choices that might be unpopular to everyone but themselves, and it is an equally real crime for people to judge one another based on telepathic presumptions they make about each other that have no evidence, no reliable testimony, and possibly serve no other purpose than to create pain/strife amongst people.
Being from Miami, FL, I find castigatory attitudes such as the ones I am attempting to describe in this article to be invasive and based on insufficient knowledge. I don’t remember the social climate in Miami Beach to be so openly obsessed with people’s exact income levels,and the exact status of people’s spiritual relationships with God.
It is not for us to judge each other, that is the responsibility of God. It is our responsibility to do the most we can to show understanding and intelligence when faced with a universe which seems to be attempting to project so much understanding and intelligence in our direction. It is our responsibility as intelligent spirits, or one of the typifying characteristics of such beings, that we are able to look for meaning in our world, and to perpetuate meaning.
Ayn Rand reasons that even the most solitary and successful individual must still on some level react to and evaluate his own degree of happiness in light of the various degrees of happiness demonstrated by his peers and those around him.
Too often and too readily is Ayn Rand’s definition of the political term “selfishness” dismissed as being unsympathetic (insensitive) towards people who are in unfortunate situations or living in conditions of distress.
I wish that critics of Ayn Rand would be compelled to read her texts closer, because her philosophical argument is very sophisticated and even sensitive to the psychiatric functions of human happiness:
her argument is NOT that we do not NEED to be altruistic in order to be true, complete individuals.
Her stratified style of writing, in which multiple clauses are frequently interdependent, actively recontextualizes the issue of human happiness within what I would describe as psychiatric and scientific valuations:
Ayn Rand says that humans CANNOT BE HAPPY while fellow humans are suffering.
(I don’t have my copies of “The Fountainhead,” “Atlas Shrugged,” or “The Romantic Manifesto” with me at the moment because they are in storage, but I am confident that if someone were to ask Dr. Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute if my interpretation of Ayn Rand is accurate, he would agree that it is.)
Rand interprets the “enforcement” of altruism as being the reason why people are reluctant to be generous to each other: that the “enforcement” of generosity presumes people are not generous to begin with, and thus, by her definition (standards) of what human is, that they are not human automatically.
Ayn Rand seems to imply that people cannot be FORCED to be HUMAN.
The implicit meaning of Ayn Rand’s arguments about the role of altruism is that if people are treated as though they need to be reminded to be generous to each other, they become recalcitrant to those forces that would underestimate them, and the result is that in moods of anger towards this, people act uncharitably to each other, which in her estimation is not a good example of man in his “natural” state.
Most importantly, the success of Ayn Rand’s argument is achieved when evidence is provided of people who are unable to be happy as a result of the fact that they are ungenerous to each other.
Another very important factor for the Dallas Shelter System staff and clients to take into consideration is that along with the taxpayer donations that they accept, these institutions no doubt accept considerable sums from corporations and capitalists, whose personal success in business, if studied anthropologically/ethnographically or clinically, would no doubt in great measure be found to be due to self-interested choices that they made and defended in life, and possibly not without at least a few setbacks on the way to achievement.
“The times, they are a-changin’” (Bob Dylan, “The Times, They are A-Changin’) (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bob+dylan/the+times+they+are+a+changin_20021240.html)
And that a new wave of creative class citizens are becoming are of social injustices at the level of class consciousness (globally, as well as nationally and locally) that are to blame for the stifling of the creative market as it is now and with it all the tools of industry and innovation which in the past decades have been manufactured and exported at exponentially more affordable rates, even to the point that now there could stand to be debates about the necessity in the first place for corporations to charge anything at all for the technology and material goods/food they could be producing with machines and using solar power.
I was at the library a few weeks ago and I overheard an African American woman using her cell phone to try to call several apartment offices inquiring about whether:
#1 they had vacancies and
#2 if they accepted rental checks from Dallas Housing Offices.
For what seemed like two hours the consistent reply was either no answer (so she would be forced to leave a voicemail message including her name and reason for her call on the line of an office worker who she hoped would call her back with a reply to her query), or “no.”
As a libertarian I am very critical of government use of individual tax money for public services, and I am aware that arguments exist among libertarians that taxation is a form of theft.
As a Messianic Jew and believer in Christ, I understand the biblical explanations in the New Testament about the purpose of the church’s system of taxation after the death of Christ as being necessary for the perpetuation and proliferation of Jesus’ memory throughout the world, and with it, the reminder of all the miracles he achieved in his life.
The bible says somewhere that citizens should obey their government institutions:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1, KJV) (http://biblehub.com/romans/13-1.htm)
It seems that the bible promotes the idea that if one should try to change their government society, they should do so from within so as to avoid bloodshed or violent war.
To me the Bible is like the very vertebrae of reality: a history book and skeleton of poetry and epistemology that in being honored throughout the various denominations of the world, seems to reflect a kind of collective agreement about what it is to be alive, and the fact that life, and the present tense, consists of history as much as it consists of the future.
At the same time, I believe that the canon of world art and literature echoes everything that is in the bible.
When I say that I am a Messianic Jew, this self definition also includes an interpretation of the life of Beethoven that accommodates for the likelihood that Ludwig van Beethoven was, as I believe he claims about himself in his music, the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
So this might make me a Messianic Jewish Buddhist.
And I am okay with that.
Possibly to the extent that my beliefs in Beethoven inform what I consider to be a “celibate” form of sexuality, this might further refine my self-identification of my spirituality as a
The point is that I agree with Nietzsche’s argument that one of the purposes of government is to perpetuate the memory of Christ and promote contemplation/study of the existence of a messiah in our world.
Simultaneously, I agree with the libertarian argument that people should have a more direct say/involvement in what their tax money is used for.
I am perhaps one the biggest champions of those who made arguments in the late 1990s/early 2000s that the internet should be pioneered for its value and potential when it comes to consumer participation in the marketplace.
One of the biggest libertarian examples during the early 2000’s of the internet’s potential is that it was hoped it would help to de-regulate drugs and narcotics insofar as consumers would be able to express their criticisms of them on messageboards in the form of open reviews that would tell people about what types of experiences they had on certain recreational drugs/medicines/and to what degree they were safe for public use.
When I heard the girl on the phone at the library a few weeks ago, the thought occurred to me that libertarians might find it extremely outrageous not only that taxes are no doubt being levied on citizens at unfair rates (one assumes that the rate of taxation might be inflated due to lack of transparency regarding how much people are taxed, and exactly where, whom, and for what the money is spent–there should be an online database that includes scanned receipts and invoices where accounting inquisitive and audit curious citizens could go, just to practice their math skills and budget balancing abilities. With such a database available for everyone to see, there would be more opportunities available for the acknowledgement of areas where government spending could be more streamlined or efficient), but also that, based on this single example which I am citing of the African American woman on her cell phone at the library, as well as the evidence of my own testimony here about my own experience as well as my opinions/descriptions about the general atmosphere of insufficiency in Dallas Shelters, such as the “Bridge” which is no larger than the size of a public high school but with no football field, swimming pool, or arts program (I saw some dogs barking in a confined space through the openings of a building at the back of the “Bridge” Shelter, and when I asked the security officer on duty at the check-in gate at the front of the building about them, he said that he had no idea what the dogs were doing there. There were also several witnesses camped outside the “Bridge” who saw me scream allegations about the driver of a champagne colored Lexus SUV pulling into the “Bridge” parking lot who I thought was trying to run me over (I thought she recognized me because of my fame as a social media cyberbullying and group stalking victim) that very likely, it is all too often the case that when citizens are taxed by the government (by some libertarian standards, robbed), but also to think that citizens are just robbed all over again when the money taken from them by government does not go to the public services it is described as being intended for.
Why should people have jobs, anyway?