Bloomed Explosions of Radiant Unknowing: A Romantic Poem

I drew her up like water from a spring found flowing

With rains placed on receptive laps of summer

Where flowers bloomed explosions of radiant unknowing

And eyes that haunted mellow stars above her

 

Her eyes a deepest black of bluest seas

Hands trading in burnt bronze for pearls

Damn necklace torn from collar in ecstasy

Restless lips of mine find home eternal

 

I had her pressed against the ground like an iron plow

Her straps dropped like kernels into fertile black soil

Green valleys of rolling love on her naked brow

Kisses etching marks on her skin unspoiled

 

Near the desert regions of her sunshine navel

I found myself lurking in quenched exploration

That thirst of old and fragrant new, entangled

Her body, my body, in Edenic damnation

 

Did I ever know her, and she know me?

Or were we seasons on opposite ends of the year?

Always holding hands at a distance of two trees

One blooming summer and the other budding spring…

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

I am currently finishing a master’s thesis at Emory University in theology and the philosophy of language. In my spare time, I am working on a romance novel called “The Seduction of Koroleva” and a collection of romantic poetry being written under the working title “In(Finite) Red.”

How Trump Grabbed America By the Pussy: The Loss of the Evangelical Movement’s Virginity

Donald J. Trump has just committed the greatest political heist in modern history. He has single handedly destroyed the Republican National Committee.

But he did not stop there.

In a totally surprising move last night—November 8th 2016—Trump additionally annihilated the Democratic National Committee. (The Democrats’ hopes for a Clinton presidency were bamboozled out of existence right before their eyes.)

And yet, that wasn’t enough for Trojan Horse Trump: he licked the asshole right off the Christian evangelical right, forever stunting whatever shit we may have expected to come forth from their backward water churches. In essence, stealing the right’s virginity.

“Wait a second,” my fellow evangelicals may state in utter dismay. “What are you talking about? Trump is our guy! Look here now, he was endorsed by our systematic theologian, Wayne Grudem. And Eric Metaxas. And John MacArthur. And James Dobson. And…”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. It sucks to be you. Your trumped up Messiah is just another politician—oh the irony!—catering to your bigoted needs.”

Maybe what goes around comes around? Have any of you thought about that? The evangelical right has been an ass to many different people and ideas—from its persecution of gays to its inarticulate views on abortion, amongst many others. While Trump has claimed to be no sugar-coated, dyed-in-the-wool politician, he has, in every essence, embraced their actions and habits already.

Let that sink in.

Within twenty-four hours of winning the election, Trump has removed his so-called “ban on Muslims” from his website. Yup. It’s gone. Nada. Nothing there. Just another smoke-and-mirrors magician performing his magico-political act.

Whoops. There go his statements. Just magically vaporized right before your bigoted eyes.

Sorry—and I thought that Trump was the bigot here. Maybe not. Maybe Trump was just pulling your legs, you bigots, you!

And then there was the whole “I can’t vote for Clinton because she believes in late-term abortions.” Oh, really? Like, do you even know that late-term abortions are restricted in many states? And, if we are going to be completely honest, statistically speaking, “only 1.3% of abortions in the United States occur at 21 weeks of pregnancy or later,” writes The New York Times. But facts are none of my business.

Oh, and while we’re at it, it’s not like Trump is pro-life. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.) Contrary to popular opinion, Trump has not included a pro-life position on his website. In fact, he seems to never have had included it.

It’s only been twenty-four hours since the election and Trump is already a well-groomed politician, telling people what they want to hear, tickling their ears to orgasm. The evangelicals—like silly, little virgin girls asking to be caressed in inappropriate places—got (and will continue to get) what they deserve: a fucking rape-job by none other than Trump himself, grabbing them by the pussy.

The joke has been on you, Christians.

Pull your heads out of your asses and start thinking. Please. For Christ’s sake—and I’m not invoking the Lord’s name in vain here—start being reasonable!

This guy, this pimp you have acquired as your “savior,” married, for all practical purposes, a porn star. Doesn’t that mean something to you? I thought you were all over that “purity culture” shit? What happened? Michelle Obama’s bare arms not bare enough for you? Seriously.

Wake the fuck up.

At this point, allow me to be a self-righteous fool on behalf of you (Paul did this in Second [not Two] Corinthians 10-13): you guys (and gals) have really lost your cookies this time. I’m telling it like it is. You have lost your cookies, and I’m not sure you’ll ever get them back.

Trump has out-Trojaned all of you. If voting for Clinton was immoral, then voting for Trump was truly post-lapsarian. (If you don’t know that theological word, go back to seminary—or ask your pastor.) Trump just did you over like a cheap prostitute. Hell, you didn’t even make him wear a condom—for all we know, you, the evangelical right, may now be carrying his baby.

Whatever promises your “new Jesus” has made you, they are as wishful as your bigoted wish to have a Muslim ban enforced in this country. (Personally, I don’t care about Islam. But I’m not one to tell people whom they can and cannot worship.)

As a matter of fact, Trump was never yours to begin with. He was always a heretic, an outcast, so to speak. He donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He supported Clinton during her campaigns. All things considered, Trump is a democrat. A liberal one at that.

Having said that, I’m not exactly sure what the real problem is (or was): did you all just not like Clinton for being a woman or…? Seriously. Cough it up. It’s pretty obvious to me that he was never a Republican. He was never pro-life. He was never pro-traditional marriage. He was never pro-no-sex-with-porn-stars. He was never pro-you-name-it. I’m not even sure he was pro-anything (in your world).

Finally, I would like to congratulate you on voting into office a relatively liberal person. If I am correct—which I think I am—it seems to me that you, the evangelical right, have just been punked.

It is no secret that, for years, evangelical America has been waiting for someone to come along and grab it/her “by the pussy.” Well, you’ve been grabbed.

 

human decay materialism critique of

Materialism; Or, The Human in Decay

Material things function as extensions of ourselves, extensions that serve as substitutes for the living and breathing beings that we cannot have. A romantic in despair is an impulsive consumer. When the life which we lead forces us to be “at peace” with the unpredictable, we, naturally, seek something stable, something material that will numb our senses. For example, if you were involved romantically with someone, and out-of-the-blue he or she decided to call it quits on the relationship, this instability—this unpredictable and uncontrollable chaos—would have terrified you, the romantic. Maybe it was all in my head the entire time? Maybe love was never there to begin with? Maybe people are just too unpredictable? Perhaps, this is why my own world is so prone to falling apart…

The unstable characters which surround us, characters that are no different than us, create within us the desire—nay, the demanding need!—to find something eternal, something stable, something that would last “forever.” And what could be the polar opposite of the unstable and the human? Material things of course!

It is in material things that we find a kind of permanence. No, I’m not suggesting that material things are permanent (for one knows that steel rusts and wood burns); rather, I am suggesting that material things are permanent enough for us to feel as if they are, indeed, stable. This stability, this permanence that we desire begins to surround us in our chaotic world as our material things increase in number. The more material things we buy, the more stable the environment around us feels.

Take me, for example (allow me to function as a sort of “martyr” for this piece!). In losing a relationship—or should I rather state “since having lost a relationship”?—I have done nothing but consume. And it was this nonsensical consumption that prompted my interest in examining, philosophically, what exactly it was that was causing me to consume.

I purchased a Fossil wallet, throwing my old, black leather one away. I use my wallets all the time, and the fact that I changed the wallet gave me a sense of “Well, you’ve entered a different stage in life; now you are a different person. Cast off your worries! The things that occurred in the past are no more!” Maybe that’s what I had been looking for all this time: I wanted to feel as if the past was the past, the relationship was over, and it was time for me to move on. My old wallet would have hindered that process. I am no longer that man who had used that wallet!

I purchased a new car, trading in my hybrid for a convertible Lexus. And why the hell not? You only live once, they say. I drive a lot. Maybe this, too, was a way for me to evade reliving the past—and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I also went shopping. (You might as well change out your wardrobe if you are planning on reinventing yourself, correct?) Why wear the same clothes that you used to wear? That person that wore them, that was a different he. That was a he that belonged to a she; a he that lived a life that is now completely foreign to you. You’ve left all of that behind too.

I then dyed my hair. Why look the same when you are no longer that you?

And so, in a mere few weeks, a distance had been created between the present you and the you who had lived in the past. Lines were drawn, phone numbers deleted, photos erased—an entire epoch in your life brought to a slow and annihilating death. And that was that.

You left it all behind.

You walk around feeling like a million bucks; you laugh in the most evolved of manners—for, by all means, you have changed.

But that is all change controlled by you. The entire time, you had been in charge. The dying of the hair, the purchasing of a new vehicle, the sheer mind-numbness of materialism—that was all “controlled demolition.” You were in charge. It gave you a sense of power, a sense of control. And it had been control that you had wanted the entire time. You wanted to feel like life made sense. People made sense.

But they didn’t. And they don’t.

Out of the tumultuous dizziness of heartbreaks and sorrows, out of the nauseating suppression of the human—there, in the dampest and darkest of places, out of the utter decay of the human, there materialism rears its monstrous head.

But materialism is not some sort of dream-state. Like anything else, it has its problems. Surrounded by the nonsensical possessions, one sinks into a despair far worse than the original wound—for the plastics and the steels of this world cannot quench the fires of a burning love, a dying-yet-resilient passion.

And so all one can do is return to the initial despair, to the initial wounds, the initial life-beginnings of a romance that would not be. “As a dog returns to its vomit…” (Proverbs 26:11). Perhaps it is here, in that most remedial of places, that one discovers a single truth: tgtyelijtlablir.[1]

Or maybe not.

 

 

As I leave the Mall of Georgia, sporting a new jacket, the sound of a folk artist playing guitar and singing some melancholic tunes distracts me. I approach him, toss him some money, and sit next to him. I ask him to “play me something romantic.” He complies with my wish.

After playing three songs for me, I finally leave a lighter and happier soul.

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

[1] For those who do not know, this is the acronym for “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” It is a lyric written by Eden Ahbez for Nat King Cole’s song Nature Boy.

An Existentialist’s Survival Guide to Recovering from Heartbreak: 6 Wonderful Ideas to Help You After a Break-Up

If you have an ounce of human in you—and, believe me, some of us do—you’ll probably experience some form of heartbreak at some point in your life. Ever since I was a teenager madly in love with the girl next door, I have been prone to experiencing all forms of emotional distress. Over the years—and they are nearing three decades—I have discovered ways of dealing with all things heartbreak-related. (If I ever die from heart disease, it’ll almost certainly be Takotsubo’s cardiomyopathy.) So the following suggestions are based on my life experience. I present them to the reader with the hope that you, too, may survive to witness another romance, as I have. (The incurable romantic in me hopes for more such romances to come—hell, at least let me write another poem!)

1. Try “The Mikheyev Potion” for Restless Nights: Alcohol, Tylenol, and Benadryl

After I get “the news” (whichever form it may come in; often times, the worst is “cold shoulder,” which I have dubbed “ignoring bliss” in my more younger and vulnerable years), I usually end up sleeping poorly. In fact, to quote a Hawk Nelson song, I “sleep all day, gonna stay up all night.” To be completely honest: I never considered medicating myself in my more vulnerable years. I guess I thought that I could deal with anything and everything. But as I grew older—and as the world became a more distant place—I realized something profound: alcohol has all kinds of wonderful uses. I remember a time, not too long ago, when I was working full-time and finishing my undergraduate degree at Whitworth University. I let some girl get the best of me without taking care of myself. At the time, I had to wake up around six in the morning to study Hebrew. In addition to this, the night before, I’d only come home from the hospital around eleven in the evening. Once the shower and meal were thrown in, I was going to sleep past midnight. And if you’re any good at math, then you would know that I was maybe getting five to six hours of sleep per night. But now I had “girl problems.” And this meant virtually no sleep. I couldn’t possibly function as a nurse at the hospital the following day without getting sleep. So sleep became a huge issue in my life. I purchased a SleepNumber M7 mattress (with all the fancy remote controls and such) with the hopes that this would solve my problem. It did, and it didn’t. It was an excellent bed, but I couldn’t sleep. So I went through all kinds of different sleeping medications with the hopes that they would solve my problem. Some worked all right; some didn’t. In the end, I developed what works pretty well for me. I call it “the Mikheyev potion.”

I essentially believe in the power of the “synergistic effect” (that is, I believe in what others have called “stacking”); I combine multiple medications in relatively “low doses.” While every individual is different—and this will certainly not work for everybody—I combine alcohol (half a bottle of wine, preferably chardonnay), a thousand (1000) milligrams of Tylenol, and fifty (50) milligrams of Benadryl.

Prior to the recent scientific studies that only came out this year, I recognized that, in addition to pain relief, Tylenol actually dulled emotions. And boy did I need that.

I also drink a bottle of Gatorade prior to going to bed—as the Benadryl and alcohol will make you relatively thirsty halfway through your good night’s rest. And so, cheers to good sleep!

2. Rewrite Your “Narrative”

I recommend rewriting your life’s narrative. If you are anything like me, then you probably spend a lot of time daydreaming and writing a narrative for your life. When in love, you probably include the other person, attempting to see if your life together would look wonderful. Once the Other is out of the picture—as a break-up would imply—you must begin rewriting your narrative. I suggest rewriting the narrative as soon as possible. Don’t wait.

3. Probably Forego the “Rebound” and, Instead, Talk to Friends

This point is certainly commonsensical. Some prefer hitting up a “rebound” practically immediately (which works for you, the sufferer, but is also an unethical move; to invoke Kantian ethics, you are using the person, i.e., the rebound, mostly as a means to an end without treating them as a subject of their own reality [as you are mostly treating them as an object, which is not a good thing]). Instead of rebounds, I prefer the more ethical alternative: talk about your break-up with your friends, be they male or female. I also suggest being as honest as possible about both yours and the Other’s failures (that is, don’t entirely demonize the other person) when discussing the relationship.

4. Okay, Demonize A Little

Disregard the previous point somewhat: it’s okay to demonize the other person, if only a little bit. (I am invoking Kierkegaard’s “teleological suspension of the ethical” here.) While it is not entirely ethical to badmouth anyone, if you are on the verge of committing suicide, I recommend demonizing (if that’s what it’s going to take for you to make it out alive). I don’t recommend this in the long run, but I do okay it for short-term purposes. Talk shit about the Other for a week or two—and then move the fuck on. (However, I would also like to point out that if you choose this route, please be conscientious of the fact that the Other is merely human—they are not perfect.)

5. Create a Break-Up Soundtrack

People who don’t like music are usually soulless. If you are experiencing heartbreak, I assume you have a soul—and that’s why you need music. I prefer doing something entirely erratic when it comes to my choice of music: I listen to everything. I usually tend to oscillate between very dark music and very upbeat music. Here’s a sample of my recent playlist:

  1. “Shattered” by O.A.R.
  2. “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner
  3. “Nuvole Bianche” by Ludovico Einaudi
  4. “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift
  5. “Gravity Lies” by Red
  6. “It’s Your Move” by Josh Kelley
  7. “It Is What It Is” by Lifehouse
  8. “Jenny” by Nothing More
  9. “I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Benjamin
  10. “Gravity” by Papa Roach
  11. “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
  12. “Paperthin Hymn” by Anberlin

Often times, I find walking in nature and listening to music to be a relatively soothing experience. In fact, I recommend getting away from people—at some point—and simply walking. You’d be surprised how many problems one can literally walk from.

6. Distract Yourself: Go Out and Read a Boring Book

Distraction has always served its purposes. I prefer to either watch a movie—preferably in a theater—or read a book. I don’t mind watching horrors after a break-up; they usually function as excellent distractors. In addition, excellent reading material may be something very easy, like The Little Prince, or something intellectually stimulating, like Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. As a general rule of thumb, anything by Søren Kierkegaard is usually good when feeling depressed—he is so depressed, he makes your life look amazing.

Concluding Remarks

This guide was written from an existentialist’s point of view. What that means is the following: as an existentialist, I know how hard it is for us not to remain hopeful and optimistic. You’re probably yelling “What?” Yes, I did just say “hopeful” and “optimistic.” This is actually deduced from the idea that human beings are, as Kierkegaard reminds us, “a becoming.” Since we all are always changing, it makes us—who are cognizant of this fact—remain very hopeful. When a girl turns me down, I’m often times reluctant to call it quits. After all, she’s just “a becoming”—that is, she’ll come around. One of these days she’ll figure out what she’s missing out on, right? Being aware of this fluidity to life makes us, inherently, resilient. It also makes us prone to delusions of change. The other person is not required to change. They probably will change their mind at some point, but it may not be “soon” or even “ever.” (I once had a girl apologize for how she treated me in her teenage years after she had gotten married, had a child, and had grown the fuck up. The apology came almost a decade too late. But it did come. And it no longer mattered.) The point I am trying to make is this: it’s okay for us to sit back and watch others make foolish decisions. We all do that. We all make mistakes. And, hell, it sucks when you love someone and they fuck up. I know it does. But maybe that’s life? Maybe we’re all here just to be good people, try to make things work with others, and try to be as forgiving as possible when things don’t go our way.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

Endowing Life With The Sacred: An Essay on Human Limitations and Exclusivity

Humans have the ability to self-generate “the sacred.” While the Platonist philosopher wishes to universalize human behavior, the human being chained to his or her own existential reality gets through life by making those relations “sacred” that are immediately most close to him or her; in essence, the existential human is concerned with the particular. Humans are finite creatures limited to time and place. We cannot possibly love everyone and make every moment sacred. Hence, we embrace those closest to us—set them apart—and, in effect, make our relations sacred. We are, by all means, an exclusive-making species. We exclude everyone else in the process. We include those we chose, and amongst those chosen, we further make sacred some relations. In this essay, I will argue that exclusivity is essential to the human life, since it is inherent to our finite natures. Moreover, I will argue that we self-generate “the sacred” by (a) a process of exclusion, which is an inherent by-product of our finite nature; and (b) a process of selecting from those included a select few individuals who share a particular act, a particular thing, with us in common. It is this particularity that makes something “sacred.” It is this particularity that makes up what we call “special moments.” The thing that we choose to willfully set-apart becomes holy (“sacred”) unto us.

In this essay, I will deal with the example of sacred sex, something common to many religions. Because sex has taken on this sort of “sacred element,” I have decided that it serves as a clear example of how humans go about excluding others and endowing life with the sacred by a process of particularization. I will first begin by dealing with human limitations. I will then proceed to show how this is inextricably related to our finite natures. After that, I will demonstrate that humans qua humans could only be exclusive-making creatures. Finally, I will argue that sex serves as a perfect example of self-generated “sacredness.” Moreover, I will argue that endowing life with “the sacred” is something all humans could, theoretically, do. In fact, I will argue for all of us to embrace particularity as it alone allows us to value one another as unique individuals.

Humans have limitations. We cannot think omnisciently, for one. And we cannot think for an infinite period of time; instead, we must limit ourselves to time-constrained actions. Let’s briefly deal with the first issue, namely, omniscience.

Let’s suppose that Anna and Mike go on a date. Anna tells Mike that she is a very honest person. Mike values honesty, and does not think that he would be able to love Anna (or any other woman for that matter) who could not make honesty a prioritized virtue. Let us suppose that Anna consciously thinks she is honest indeed. So she tells Mike on their tenth date that she values and embodies the virtue of honesty. Mike, being very keen on finding himself an honest person to date, takes Anna at her word and proceeds with the relationship.

But Mike is not omniscient. He doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know that even while Anna was speaking honestly—that is, in her subjective opinion she was being “honest” about her “honesty”—Anna was actually not the most honest of human beings. In fact, relative to the rest of the human population, Anna’s “honesty ranking” was somewhere in the fiftieth percentile, making her mundanely stereotypical and average. But Mike isn’t omniscient, so he cannot possibly know that. He doesn’t have access to her thoughts—both conscious and subconscious. He doesn’t have access to her history, to her contextualized-to-self language-games. He doesn’t have access to her worldviews, be they tacit or explicit. He doesn’t have that sort of monopoly on truth. As we all know, none of us do. Given such facts, Mike, by continuing to date her, actually commits a sort of sin against himself: he acts in a way that is not consistent with what he believes.

As boring as this example may sound, humans do this all the time. That’s simply how we approach the world. We listen to people; we give them the benefit of the doubt; we trust their choice of words; we accept their version of themselves; we trust that the words spoken reflect who they actually are, etc., etc.

There is this certain strand of “basic trust” that runs throughout our engagement with other human beings. But, once exposed to critical scrutiny, much of what we believe about one another is misconstrued, misinterpreted, misplaced, misdiagnosed, etc., etc. And it’s not something to be upset about. Why should we be? When a million years is what one needs for perfection, a hundred years could only grant us faint slivers of it. Every decade or so we make a perfect move, a perfect decision; every month or two, we say something that sounds absolutely perfect to someone else. But these are rare glimpses of eternity. These are those special moments in which we strangely find ourselves doing things in a manner almost unnatural to us. We dance in a way that seems to have been written in the stars—for one night only. Again, this isn’t inherent to our natures. This is a misfire. Perfection could never be something we get served on a daily basis. For how could it be otherwise? In a world of omniscient-less beings, we can only expect acts that betray a certain lack of intelligence and thought. This brings us to the second issue: finitude.

For omniscience to be useful, it must also be found conjoined to infinity. Only an infinite existence, coupled with omniscience, could possibly create dates, scenes, vacations, etc., where things turned out perfectly planned. But we are finite creatures, bound to the post-Einsteinian space-time continuum. We spend decades growing up, only to discover that growing-up also involves the inevitability of growing-old. And growing-old also included dessert after the main dish: death. We live a life spending the majority of our youth—years wasted—on simply figuring ourselves out. And while we’re busy doing that, we realize that our twenties don’t last forever—they too shall pass. We hit our thirties and realize that (a) we are much more wiser now; and (b) we are certainly not as visually appealing. And the entire time we are pressured to be something, to do something. We get lost in the hypnotic mazes of our careers. We spend a decade trying to resurface. In the sea of dizzying freedom, we are then forced, by our very sexually driven natures, to find ourselves a companion who would take that road with us.

But our thoughts are lost. Shattered. Heads spinning. Out there in the twilight zone our minds are left wondering. We fall back to earth only to land in a vast blue sea of broken dreams, shitty errands, traffic, and all-things irritating; we get suffocated by the waters of our own lives. Underwater we learn to survive. Then—in the twinkling of an eye—we come up for air. Ah. That shit feels good. Every once in a while we catch glimpses of eternity. We transcend our skin and bones to realize that there’s got to be more to this stuff called “life.” It is in moments like these that we begin to value what little time we have been given.

A thought occurs to us. Call it a sacred thought. “Hmm,” we say to ourselves. “Maybe wasting my precious time on a sea of useless faces isn’t the best way to go about living life. Isn’t it possible to know and be known?” And in such moments we find the existentially appealing idea of particularization, of setting apart, of exclusive-making to be something worth pursuing.

And out of a dizzying array of faces, names, nicotine-stained smiles, tattoos and piercings, I have chosen you.

Here—in the midst of what was once an eternal hole the size of Texas, swirling in galactic black hole space-ness—I have called out, striking chords on imperative notes: you.

Here, falling to the ground like a leaf in dead winter, lonely and single, I have made an impression on someone. It’s a truly singular event. It’s an event where you discover that something sacred is going on. This you that I have called becomes set-apart from all other such yous.

I don’t how many of you feel anything right now, but I’m kind of giddy-all-over typing this, pausing and reflecting on my use of verbs, adjectives, and participles. Just writing this is making this sentence, this paragraph, feel special.

Why you?

And we find our thoughts continuously percolating around this particular individual, this you. Out of an infinite sea of innumerable I-Thou relationships, we find ourselves particularizing. Limiting. Setting apart. Making plans for an exclusive Other. We recognize that our finitude, our creatureliness, our very bad habit of familiarity, drives us into the wastelands of particularity. Moving from the universal, moving from the ideals we have created for ourselves, we zoom in on a specific individual. Moving from all of the contextualized history we have created about ourselves, for ourselves, we become cognizant of a very acute fact. The ideal world is ideal for a very specific reason: it has no boundaries, no realized finitude, no palatable reality to it. We imagine a perfect Other. We concoct for ourselves a dream life. (But allow me to emphasize the word “dream” in the sentence.) All of our ambitions, our dreams, our perfection-driven tendencies, find themselves useless due to one single fact: none of it is real.

Perhaps there is a reason why we do this, perhaps not. What is important to note, however, is that we all do this. These universal ideals, these unadulterated thoughts, only become embodied in an imperfect world, full of imperfect people, forced to make decisions in poorly timed conditions.

Our ideals remain distant to us. They share brain-space with us, but that is all. Most of us, at some point, shed ideals like snakes shed their skins. We let go of our childhood fantasies and move on to conquer the day with Godspeed. Our need for reality, for embodiment, for Incarnation is written in our religious texts, our coffee shop meet-ups, our handshakes, and our face-to-face encounters with the objective Other. We cannot taste without touch. In this perpetual motion, this never-ending desire for a palatable reality, we become aware of just how tangible we want things to be. Our visions take on their own realities, growing hands and fingers as we speak them into life.

This all brings us to the very pressing issue of the process of particularization. We like doing things that are particular. Maybe because it is only in the particular that we find comfort. I don’t know why this is the case, but it is. A universal idea of a perfect spouse isn’t as comforting as the particular reality of an imperfect spouse holding your fragile body while your atoms decay with each collapse of the wave function.

When we particularize our lives, we begin to engage people on a more intimate level. Spending one minute on each individual out of a group of ten thousand persons isn’t as satisfying as spending ten thousand minutes with one person. The quality of our relationships is proportionally related to the amount of time we invest in them.

And so it is in moments like these that we perform what I have called “exclusive-making” actions. We start excluding all other relations in favor of one. Given the fact that we value our time, and given the fact that we have very little of it, the person whom we most value is blessed with the majority of what little time we have. We narrow down our choices. We select people on whom to spend our skin on. Life is short, so we don’t waste time excluding others.

Allow me to remind my readers that I am by no means arguing that this is bad. This is not only good; this is a brute fact of life. It is the only way a finite creature could and (probably) should live.

Finally, this brings us to the issue of sexual relations. If what you value is depth of knowledge, intimacy, and quality in your human relations, I suppose, by implication, you probably are careful with whom you share the sexual experience. (Now, this is not a universal claim that I am making. Some people, I am told, are perfectly fine with loose sexual mores, and say they are genuinely satisfied with them. I am not speaking on behalf of such people. In fact, I cannot possibly relate to them.) The process of particularization brings us to the issue of whom we choose to have sex with. Now, it is evident that relationships are not always sacred. Moreover, it should also be made clear that not everyone cares about the sacred. Some people just don’t give a fuck—and I won’t interrupt their orgy. Having said that, for those of us who do care about the sacred, who do care about investing every second of our time in someone we deeply care about, the rest is dedicated to us…

If the quality of our relationships is directly related to time spent on them, then, quite possibly, the quality of sexual intimacy is directly related to time invested in the person we’re having sex with. We go on dates, walk on foreign shores, and share sunsets—all for the sake of the possibility of loving and being loved. And sexual expression is one way of “doing love.” Generally speaking, we don’t get stark naked for those who do not know us. The act of clothing ourselves symbolizes our act of hiding ourselves from others. We don’t want to be known and seen by those we don’t care to be known and seen by. Most people cannot and do not know us. And so we remain forever “hidden” from their sights.

And then something happens.

We choose someone. Out of the plurality of voices beckoning to us, we respond to only one. Only they see us as we want to be seen; only they experience the nudity we have left impenetrable to others. In essence, then, we—as volitional human beings—self-generate our own notions of the sacred. If sex is sacred to you, you will set it apart. What I am stating here is that sacred sex is not something that religion has a monopoly on. In fact, the atheist could lead a life in which certain acts (such as the sexual act), certain traditions, or certain gestures are made sacred: they are set apart for special people and special occasions. One could, in theory, make sacred the phrase “I love you” and whisper it only to three people in the entire world. It doesn’t take a god to make life sacred. It takes a human being who wants to make it so.

Personally, I already lead a sacred life. I value my time, and try not to waste it on people I don’t care about. And, there, I said it: most people I don’t give a damn about. I don’t think there’s anything special about my not giving a damn. I just see it as something that must be. I can’t have it both ways. To give a damn, I have to spend time with you. But I won’t. For I have already chosen to do that with someone else. And that someone else has had my time graciously bestowed upon them. In the minutes that are leading up to midnight, I have chosen to set myself apart for someone else. Not because I don’t value people; no, it is precisely because of the fact that I do.

I relish every moment spent with a person who is both broken and familiar. I value our shared history, whatever it may include. I do this because I want to, nothing more and nothing less. I have chosen to endow my life with the sacred because I believe that this particular way of leading it is, for me, most existentially satisfying. I also encourage others to think about their lives. I encourage you to revaluate your priorities. What do you spend your finite time on? With whom have you chosen to share the sacred, if anyone? It is only in the particular that we are able to find a human being worth loving. And figuring out who that particular person is takes time. But in taking that finite time and spending it on a particular individual makes for some very good times. It allows us to know the Other on an intimate level. In knowing him or her on such a level, we are allowing them the chance to share their unique individuality with us. Only in experiencing the Other as they really are gives us the opportunity to love them in an appropriate manner. But all of that takes time, which brings us back to the issue of exclusive-making activities, the sacred, and…

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

I’m a graduate student at Emory University interested in religion, philosophy, and the philosophy of language. 

“There Are No Existentialists Here”

It’s a Friday night and I’m stuck at a twenty-four hour Starbuck’s drinking coffee with a crowd of young earthlings between the ages of sixteen and thirty. I had recently moved “down South” from Washington state to Atlanta, Georgia. Here I was a thoroughbred northerner stuck in the self-deprecating, yes-ma’am-ing, door-opening, deep-fried South.

I moved here to attend graduate school at Emory University. Rumor had it that Emory was a good place to be, especially considering the fact that, relative to the south, it was a darn good school. So there I was—young, energetic, and full of life—aching to discuss “the big questions.” I was, after all, obtaining a master’s in “theological studies.” That is, I was essentially studying God (whatever the hell that meant).

But my youthful naiveté would soon meet its life-sucking Count Dracula. I would soon come to discover that the people in the South, as a general rule, didn’t really care about the big questions. In fact, they were permanently disinterested in thinking about them. I even suspect that they don’t even know that such questions exist. Take one such question—what is the meaning of your life?—for brief consideration. I asked this youthful bunch to think about that while they sipped their almost-deep-fried, double-shot Crème brûlée latte. I then waited like a cat hunting a mouse for a response. But it never came.

Somewhere amidst all of the important topics filling the discussion like hot air balloons at a two-year-olds birthday party, my mere mention of “meaning” got lost. It was never heard amongst all of the bells and whistles.

You see, being the generous soul that I am, I, quite naturally, assumed that my question must have never tickled a single soul’s eardrum. So I sputtered out the dying remains of this existentially unnerving question. Like its previous contender, the question fell on deaf ears.

Having said all that, I think the people here are quite happy-go-lucky. I mean, they are so enamored of themselves that they never ask big questions. Or, maybe, they are so thoroughly enjoying life that they don’t have time for such petty things as “meaning.” Come on, who cares about “meaning” (what’s that?) when you’re having the best time of your life?

Well, that was somewhere around “month one” in Atlanta. I had something like two years to spend here, so I decided that, contrary to my subjective opinion, Atlanta might prove me wrong. There was, after all, still time.

The months turned into seasons—summer came and went—and I failed to meet a person who thinks about thinking. (I ended up meeting one such soul, contrary to my previous sentence, but he was originally from Boston. And to which, in due time, his soul returned happily again.)

His name was Andrei. He was a philosopher at heart. He studied cognitive psychology at Penn State; prior to that, he did his undergraduate work in classical piano. We talked about a lot of things—music, people, public opinion, etc.—and then we came upon that most touché of subjects: the meaning of it all.

Andrei brought up a funny anecdote that stuck. We were having dinner together—I was sipping a Moscato and he was drinking chardonnay—when we began discussing the philosophy of language (it’s practically impossible to find people in the South, amidst the general public, who would be familiar with the subject, much less able to hold a discussion). As I told Andrei my views on God and His/Her/Its ability to communicate meaningfully to us, Andrei related his own concerns. “When I was at Penn State, all of the psychology graduate students used to wonder how philosophers and theologians would speak and write about God. We’d sit together and discuss in utter amazement how these guys could imagine that they knew what they were talking about. Here we were trying to figure out how the human mind was able to perceive a ‘cup’ as a ‘cup,’ and these guys were writing dissertations on God!” “Look at this cup,” he continued, as he pointed at a cup in front of him. “It’s different from this other cup here. This one doesn’t have a handle on it. It’s a different color. It’s made from a different material. How does our mind still classify both of these very different objects as belonging to the category of ‘cup’?”

            I understood Andrei’s point because I, too, wondered; I, too, lived asking similar questions. How do we know—almost intuitively—that something is a cup? Here I was trying to speak about a Being I’ve never met, using words I never did understand (infinite, omnipresent, omniscient, etc.)—and yet, I never even got past grade school; I never solved the problem of cup-ness.

How could we speak of “meaning” when we have a hard time understanding cup-ness? How could we use such abstract nouns, when even basic nouns still evaded us? We could pretend to discuss “the meaning of life”—and use such abstract nouns no one has access to like “morality,” “goodness,” and “end-goal”—but we’ll only go as far as cup-ness will take us. And that’s really not that far.

Let’s go back to the cup dilemma for a second. The problem with the cup—as we seen it—has far-reaching implications. If one were to set out to define what it means for an object to be a “cup,” one would have to demarcate certain lines, that is, create certain criteria that would have to be met when someone would be defining a cup. For example, one might say that a cup must be able to hold a liquid and be circular. What about cups that are square? One might qualify the statement and add that cups may not necessarily be circular/round. What about cups that don’t hold liquids well? For example, what if the ceramic cup is cracked? Is it still a cup? If not, what is it?…

We never were able to define “cup” in such a way that would enable us to include every cup that had ever existed—and would exist—in all human history. We were unable to come up with a definition for “cup-ness.” In other words, when asked to define “cup,” us educated folk were left stuttering…

Like a session during a smoke and mirrors magic show, the whole idea of a “cup” kept evading us. It was here for a second, there for a second—then it was completely gone. Like an illusive term in a Wittgensteinian language-game, the cup never materialized enough for us to grasp it, for us to drink from its waters.

Empty we came, and thirsty we left.

“There are no cups here.”

But on a more serious note, when Andrei moved—and I realized I hadn’t had dinner with a friend in months—I wrote my professor-friend from undergrad. He was glad to hear that I was alive and well. He was glad to hear that I was reading Kierkegaard. But then something tragic happened. After he asked me to tell him how I was doing—and I had texted him a summary of my experience in Atlanta—I made the following concluding remark in my text message: “This place lacks existentialists.”

He replied: “Easily one of the best lines I’ve ever read in a text.”

It’s a heart-breaking moment when your professor-friend tells you that noticing the fact that existentialists are missing is important. It’s a good thing to read that someone still tracks existentialists—for it suggests that there is still someone existential enough to notice!

The situation, in retrospect, is much more dire than initially observed. This place doesn’t just lack existentialists: they have gone extinct.

Somewhere along the journey to Hell, I bet there’s a post that reads:

“There are no existentialists here.”

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

I’m a graduate student at Emory University interested in religion, philosophy, and the philosophy of language. 

The Ethics of Dating: Modern Inter-Sex Relationships and Some Advice from an Existentialist

 

The dating scene has become something which late night talk shows and psychologists discuss on a daily basis. With so much talk going on, I thought I’d get onboard and tell you what you’ve all already heard. Well, actually, I’m not sure that will be the case. I hope to offer some advice, which, I hope, may actually be somewhat idiosyncratic. Having said that, I also must restrain any potential surprise by saying that I’m probably not going to say anything too radical. And, as a heads up, I’ll use as few words as possible. Here I go.

Honesty

The first ethical premise I defend in relationships has to be that most foundational of principles: honesty. You’ve probably heard it before, and you’ll hear it again, be yourself. Be honest to those around regarding who you are, how you feel, and what your justifications are. Expect the Other to be honest, too. If everyone lied, we’d not be able to even ask what time it is without getting confused. So, please stay honest in your relationship. If you don’t want to discuss something, be honest and say, “I am uncomfortable discussing this at this point due to X, Y, and Z.” It’s okay to be honest and say, “I simply can’t discuss this with you, babe, at the moment.” It’s okay. We’ll appreciate the honesty. Sure, maybe it’ll leave us searching for answers, feeding our curiosity, but, in my experience, relationships usually fair well with some mystery. An element of surprise doesn’t kill a relationship based on truth and honesty.

Virtually all humans, if not all, want to know and be known. In order for us to know, we must know things that are true. If my attempt is to know a girl named Lily, it would help me if she is being honest about who she is, what she enjoys, what her dreams are, etc. My subjective construction of Lily—who she is, what she likes, what she believes—consists of data. What kind of data? That data could be her body language, verbal content, emotional reactions, moods, her general approach towards life (that is, how does she treat the world on a daily basis?), etc. Already, as a human being incapable of experiencing anything but my own feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc., I am limited as to what I imagine the Other feeling and thinking. I am imprisoned to my subjectivity. This makes all my evaluations of the Other very tentative. (In fact, I’m epistemically agnostic across the epistemic spectrum.) Since I cannot experience what Lily is thinking—I have no access to that—all I can do is take her at her word. If she tells me that she is excited to see me, I simply must accept that datum—the thing she told me—as being true. If she honestly is tired, exhausted, and bored at the moment, it may be better for her to tell me, “Let’s do this another time.” Given the fact that most of us create all kinds of associations on a daily basis, if I associate golf with Lily’s happiness—even though she isn’t really “happy” to play golf with me—this may contribute to difficulties later on in the relationship. We associate things all the time. Because of our nature—we look for cause and effect everywhere (that is, we try to associate anything we come into contact with with something else)—it is imperative that we be honest and allow others to have honest and truthful feedback. I’m giving a lecture on honesty because, frankly, people aren’t honest. Even I am not honest at times. I try to be. However, the shitty human in all of us some days gets the best of us.

Lucidity

The second ethical premise I defend is: lucidity. What do I mean by “be lucid”? It’s actually very much related to being honest: if you’re interested in someone for X reason, tell him or her you’re interested in them for X reason. There’s really no need to beat around the bush. We have no time for that. For example, I once worked with a fellow nurse whom I liked. We exchanged numbers. And then nothing happened. We talked about the weather, her sunroof, good places to eat, and her grandma. When I received texts from her, I would literally get bored. Instantly. “Why the hell were we talking about her sunroof,” I asked myself one day. So I sat her down and asked her to tell me what drives her. I asked her to relate to me what gives her life meaning. In other words, “What do you live for? If you were to live for another year only, how would you spend it?” I asked her some deep shit. Because I cared about her and about myself. I didn’t want to waste her time, neither did I want her wasting mine. If we didn’t see eye-to-eye when it came to core values (for example, I’m very conservative when it comes to sexual relations [no need for me to elaborate]), how the hell would we make it work? But before I could even contemplate such a thing, I need to know what the hell your core values are. And stop feeding me your bullshit “I had a cheeseburger at X restaurant last night” lines! Seriously. We’re not here to discuss cheeseburgers and sunroofs. We could do that for like one second. After that, tell me why you didn’t commit suicide last night. What prevented you? What does your heart ache after? Those are the things I want to know. Expose yourself.

I was recently involved in several bullshit exchanges with the opposite sex. Goddamn! I can’t tolerate the mediocre and the mundane. Drive me up the wall with philosophy, civil rights, whatever, just don’t bore me with platitudes. It, to be blunt, annoys me.

I have the bad habit of valuing my time. I am the guy sitting on the toilet reading three books at once. I cannot even begin to fathom what sort of unproductive waste of time it would be for me to simply not think. I don’t have the time for not-thinking. (I’ll do that when I’m dead.) And then along comes this girl whom I find attractive. I love to spend time with her and such, but she bores me with the mediocre. And so I call it quits. Seriously, bare your soul to me, lady. I’m not leaving until I see you nude. Really nude. That’s some real nudity for you. I want to see your soul bare before me, way before I see your nipples. Please, do enlighten me.

So, in other words, be lucid with one another. Speak your mind. Don’t waste your time or someone else’s. Trust me, when you’re dying, you’ll not regret having read that.

Finitude

The third concept is foundational for all human behavior, including the ethical: we all are finite creatures. This is directly related to lucidity, as we shall come to find out. Because we only have X amount of time for Y, we have to make decisions and judgments—and sometimes our judgments are prematurely made. In fact, in a perfect world, for any given action, I would demand eternity. I would demand to have an infinite amount of time to think about my action, why I would act, in which way, how it would affect those around me, and every possible outcome from the aforementioned action. I think that in such a world I would make little mistakes. Imagine the divorce rate. “Wait, what divorce rate are you talking about?” What would happen if I could take my fiancé out for dinner three billion times before marrying her. We’d probably have each other figured out. We’d probably know all the idiosyncrasies, the things that set us off, etc.

But we don’t have eternity.

Now think about this: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the Internet, and Match.com have screwed us all over. They have increased our options by infinity while not increasing our lifespan. I now have three million Katherine McNamaras to choose from. But in a short span of time—roughly between the ripe ages of 18-30—I have to figure out with whom to mate, with whom to raise a family, etc. But my time is still very finite.

Take Billy Joe, for example. Back in the sixties, he came from a small town of five thousand. There were two hundred girls his age. He was ugly and dumb, so that increased the pool to two hundred fifty candidates (for marriage). Now most of these girls he had probably never spoken to. Most likely, he spent time with something like 20-30 of them. He could spend a year getting to know each girl after the age of 18. Since there are thirty, and Billy became wiser with age, he decided to spend a year with every individual girl. He really wanted to be fair when deciding whom to marry; he wanted to give every girl a chance. So at eighteen he dated Mary for a year. By the year’s end, ten of the other girls became engaged and five became married. Billy realized he was now stuck with Mary. He became ambivalent. Moreover, he nurtured his attraction to Liza and dumped Mary. After dumping Mary and dating Liza for a year, he realized she wasn’t worth his time. By now all the girls had gotten married. Five had gotten divorced. About ten became pregnant. And, amidst this existential crisis, Billy Joe realized that Mary was his favorite one. But, there was now a problem, since time didn’t stop: she had become engaged to his friend, Mark. So, despite everything that had happened, Billy had no choice but to live with his now-pregnant ex-girlfriend, Liza. And that’s what life looks like for most of us. We spend our elderly years in a rotting rocking chair regretting “the one who got away.”

The point of the funny anecdote is this: time doesn’t wait for us. You don’t have all year long to make decisions. And, of course, that means you’ll probably marry someone you will divorce. That’s life. Accept it. It’s not you, really. It’s your finitude. I’m at a point in my own life where I probably should be dating someone with the hopes of marriage in the next couple of years. I am getting old. It’s a fact of life. And nothing has happened as of yet. (Which is why I am still writing about dating at such a “dirty” age! Not!) But the fact remains: we all are running out of time. Time is such a beautiful thing. We don’t have enough of it. I really wish we had. Please spend your time with the person you love, in an honest manner, being completely lucid and bare. Yes, don’t forget to bare your soul!

 

With love,

Moses Y. Mikheyev

The You is I

You can criticize the love you’ll never have
Staring at the ghosts of lifetime’s past
Deaf and dumb you cry without a tongue
Holding on to memories burning numb
Forget the guts you scorched with aching arms
The villainous soothing of age thirty-one
But you were seventeen, seventeen years young
When you embraced the ones you should have hung
Like thieves that creep around your skull
Your thoughts unwinding down a corridor
Remember how you laughed at that poor soul
That soul is you with head hung low
In icy winters with no warmth to spare
I stalk fires and still catch you there
A lonesome face with gloomy eyes
It’s a horror tale written in comic disguise
Forgive my blunt effrontery of words
I, too, have done shit that hurts
But I still breathe with life that’s raw
Beauty imagined is beauty drawn
I have one sharp apology to weave
I’ve been deceived, deceiving — and believed!
I’ve hidden fragments of life so sought
Little pieces waxing in my thought
For thirty one is not an age
He’s not some distant prophet, priest nor sage
Unfortunately, he’s something else
The lines I wrote to hide myself…

Why I am a Democratic Socialist: Capitalism and its Exchange of Ethics for Economics

I was born in Krasnodar, Russia just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. My parents brought me to the United States a year before the collapse actually took place. I guess you could say I escaped communism by the skin of my teeth. Growing up, I heard all the ridiculously hilarious tales my dad told me about how he ran several businesses at once, all in secret from the government, just to make enough money to live relatively comfortably. To be free from suspicion as to how he made his money, my father worked as a city bus driver. The pay was almost as ridiculous as the things he did to survive. By day, he would drive the bus; by night, he would jack it up, attach a machine to the odometer, and make sure it spun all night! He would get paid for the amount of miles he drove. He didn’t drive many in reality, but his “nightly business” gave the appearance that he drove people day and night. And so his pay was decent. He could put food on the table, as long as his odometer kept increasing its digits in leaps and bounds.

My dad, the entrepreneur, also grew flowers. He grew lots of them. Every March 8th—International Women’s Day, for those who don’t know—was my dad’s version of Black Friday. In those days, even during the relatively oppressive Russian communist regime, people practiced romance. They’d buy flowers for their lovers with money secretly stolen from the government. In those days, virtually the entire expanse of Russia could be considered “government property.” And so anything and everything belonged to “the government.” Nobody really knew who “the government” was but they all knew it was surely not them. And in such a way all theft and every theft became theft from the government.

It would come as a surprise for me to think that “the government” did not know that people were stealing from “it.” Think about it. You give people a salary of sixty rubles a month. But rent is seventy rubles. Food is another twenty. It doesn’t take a mathematician a long time to figure out that people were surviving in Russia against all odds. In other words, you’d be an idiot to think that people who were alive during a famine were not hiding food. The fact that you could survive in Russia should be seen as an impossibility. You had to be stealing. In fact, you, and you, and you over there—all of you—had to be stealing. The communist regime produced a lot of competent thieves—for they all en masse became thieves. This sort of regime could not possibly last long. And—thank God!—it didn’t. On December 26th 1991 the Soviet Union became no more. It vanished—and not a tear was shed…

In the year of 1987, Gorbachev, then president of the U.S.S.R., tried to implement policies that would make the Soviet Union more democratic—it was known in the Russian as the process of “demokratizatsiya.” Implementing a democratic government proved harder than he thought and so nothing ever really came of it.

Anyone living in those days would not have ever called Russia a “democratic” country by any means. The people had no say in government. They could not democratically choose to be a capitalist society, for example. They could not democratically choose to be a socialist society either. The rules that governed their world, their economy, came from a group of elites. And the rules and regulations favored the elites. The common people were left to fend for themselves. This was no America: there was no working democracy in Russia.

To be honest, I’ve always been fascinated with communism, socialism, and capitalism. There was something demonically sacred about communism. It was the thing everybody here feared. And I was born in a country full of communists. I was, to be blunt, “one of them.”

I never actually cared much for politics and economics growing up. Sure, I thought communism was a spooky word, but I never really studied any of it. It wasn’t until I graduated nursing school, and had begun working as a nurse at a hospital, that I started thinking about the way our country did healthcare. And believe me, I was scared shitless. I didn’t know much. And I still don’t know much. (How many people have read the Affordable Care Act? I mean, please, the senators didn’t give a rat’s ass about it—and didn’t bother to read it—so why would a commoner bother to read several thousand pages?) Truth be told, I still don’t know much about healthcare. Moreover, none of the doctors I’ve met, nor the nurses I’ve spoken with, knew much about healthcare policy. No one I’ve asked seemed to know what Obamacare was all about. Nobody seemed to know what it all meant. Not the health professionals, not the therapists, not any of the hospital staff, not the senators. It made me wonder: who the hell wrote this? Well, I never did find out…

The more I worked in the hospital setting, the more I became convinced that we had become a business that was trying to make money. We were all being forced to cut corners, to practice shitty nursing care, just so that somebody on top could make money, get their year end bonus. Most people outside of nursing probably don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about. Most people outside of doctors probably don’t know what I mean when I say: we have to do a million things at once. And that makes for unsafe nursing practice. In fact, in Washington State we have something called “ADO Forms” we can fill out if we feel the hospital is not staffing us safely. These are “assignment despite objection” forms. Basically this means that I accept this patient load under the condition that my professional judgment is that I cannot safely provide the quality nursing care I believe I would be able to provide had I had less acute patients. In other words, the patients are too acute and I’m going to be swamped. And if I’m swamped, expect errors to be made. The hospital, then, would, allegedly, take liability for any errors committed on that nurse’s shift. Such is a day in the life of a nurse.

I would like to make it clear that none of what I am saying here is controversial. There are no hospitals that I am aware of that staff so safely that their nurses are very satisfied. If you don’t believe that this is an ongoing issue, start reading a little bit about California State law regarding their nurse-to-patient ratios. For different units, depending on acuity, nurses are assigned different patient loads. If you are a nurse working ICU, the law states that there shall be one nurse for every two patients. If you work on the telemetry unit, as of 2008, the nurse to patient ratio is 1:4. Those working on the medical surgical floor are staffed 1:5. This is what the nurses, the healthcare professionals, and, eventually, state law decided is best when it came to staffing at hospitals. A law had to be made because staffing had become an issue. For the majority of states in the United States, there are no state-enforced ratios. The hospitals can literally do whatever the hell they want. If the CEO and the board of directors decide to cut staffing, well, there’s really not much the nurses and doctors could do about that. When was the last time you heard anyone making a fuss about safe staffing at hospitals? You’ve probably heard more about that new stadium the college kids want. Too bad our hospitals are falling apart. So long as we have that stadium built, we’ll all be merry. And so something as critical as healthcare—good, quality healthcare—is left on the sidelines, waiting for some kind of Jesus or Good Samaritan to come around and resurrect it back to life.

I apologize for boring my readers with nursing gibberish and something as essential to life as healthcare: I assure you, I mean well. It wasn’t until I became an angry nurse, one who wanted to do something about the healthcare we provided, that prompted my immersion in the Washington State Nursing Association, my state’s formal nursing union. You see, all of my “socialist” activities since have had their initial birth right there in a hospital setting. The rest of my story is history.

I was angry with hospitals. I was angry with staffing. I was angry that a young, athletic and fast guy like me could not keep up with the system. I could not keep up with charting. I could not keep up with dressing changes. I could not keep up with providing assistance with my patients’ activities of daily living. And certainly I could not provide a shoulder to cry on or a second opinion. I was way too busy to do any of the normal “human” stuff. This was a business, and we had to make money. Money, money, money. Everybody wanted some money.

I understood the need for money. But I never understood something as simple as providing one additional staff member—let’s say a nursing assistant “valued at,” roughly, $40,000 per year—just so that our unit could function well. Because, as all of the nurses know, one fall in the bathroom per year can cost your facility a million dollars in a lawsuit. And we heard about those lawsuits, believe me. And they could have been prevented. All you needed was an extra set of hands. We weren’t asking for much. But what do nurses and doctors know about healthcare, right? I mean, doesn’t the CEO know that a patient admitted to the hospital with a right hemisphere stroke tends to be impulsive, and is at a high risk for falls? And, when left alone in the bathroom, is almost guaranteed to attempt to get back to bed—unsafely—on his or her own. That’s what happens when you have a stroke that affects that part of your brain. But I’m just a nurse.

I joined the union and I ended up being one of the five nurses from the hospital that renegotiated our contract with the hospital. We went through the entire thing, line by line. Unlike the senators, we knew the thing inside out. It was highlighted to the point of becoming so saturated in color that the paper ignited our room in flashes of neon yellow. We underlined words we wanted changed; we looked up Washington State “codes”; we included clauses that we thought would serve the interests of our hospital’s nurses and patients. We did our best, no doubt about that. It was a long seven-month process. Unlike the members that worked “defending” the interests of the hospital, we were not getting paid a penny to be there. In fact, lunch, parking, and all other associated costs, fell solely upon us. If we wanted to make this hospital a good place to be a patient at, and a good place to work, we had to want that. Really bad. And want that we did.

I remember a conversation I had with our labor attorney. She was a middle-aged woman with dirty blonde hair and a gentle smile. She would sit there listening to all the nurses point out the strengths and weaknesses of the hospital. She’d let us rant for minutes and then interject with a brief, “I like that!” She would, then, proceed to write whatever you said down. During one of our lunch breaks, I asked her why she did what she did.

“Why defend nurses?” I asked her.

“Why not work for the hospitals and make the big bucks?” she asked me. “I could never do that,” she continued. “I could not do that ethically. Never.”

For Laura, making a little over forty-thousand a year was more satisfying than making six figures and helping destroy this country by allowing hospitals to essentially become businesses more interested in money than in providing quality healthcare. The attorneys fighting unions in defense of the hospitals were essentially fighting for corporate interests. These guys do not give a damn about you or your health. What matters to them is how much they can get away with while making a fat profit. That’s why hospitals hire the nation’s best attorneys.

Laura did not think that ethics should ever be compromised by economics. In fact, economics should always be subservient to ethics. If you were to be called a good person, you needed to act in the most ethical manner possible. And sometimes, especially in healthcare, this called for acting in a very un-economical manner. “People over profit,” as them dirty socialists say.

I didn’t use the word “socialist” above unconsciously. In fact, I used the term precisely because democratic socialists surrounded me the entire time I was working with the union. Over coffee, during and after meetings, so many of our conversations turned to politics, women’s rights, human rights, and economic equality. The people that surrounded me were some of the kindest individuals I had ever met in my life. These ladies were the very epitome of moral leadership. My sense of morality was being nourished and sustained by these conversations and our work for the nursing union. Every time we met, I thought more and more about politics and economics…

Take Fran, for example. She was a jolly woman, somewhere in her sixties, who participated in women’s rights demonstrations, strikes outside of hospitals, and was a proud participant in the hippie movement during the ‘60s and ‘70s. She would let homeless people into her home, feed them, and rant non-stop about social justice. She never stopped talking. I began calling her “Frantic Fran.” And, as she knew by then, I refused to participate in her “Fran-tasies!” She read books by the socialist writer Chris Hedges and Cornel West. One night I invited her to come with me and see Hedges at an event at the Bing Crosby Theater. She gratuitously accepted and spent the night refusing to eat my popcorn, listening voraciously to Hedges critique the corruption in our government. Outside of her denying me the pleasure of sharing popcorn with one of my professional colleagues, I think Fran qualifies as a moral leader. She is compassionate, she is involved, she knows what she is talking about, and she cares deeply about the things she engages in. Her actions are the direct result of her thoughts and words.

Then there was Cheryl. She was the sweetest and gentlest of the bunch. She had a gorgeous smile and bright eyes. She radiated a certain grace. During one of the times in which we asked nurses to fill out their concerns regarding hospital staffing, one or two nurses—who were Republicans and, naturally, could not stand unions—met us. Prior to us meeting them in person, Cheryl took me aside and said, “Look, Moses, some of these nurses here don’t like the union. They think it’s bad. They will try to hinder our progress. They will monitor our activities and may report us if we do anything that does not comply with hospital policy [such as talking to nurses about the union while they are actively working and involved in patient care]. In such cases, we’ll just smile, offer coffee and cookies, and move on. Moses, don’t be angry at them. You are doing them good—they simply don’t know what you are doing for them.” Cheryl here was echoing that prophet’s words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Somewhere during my life as a nurse, a college student studying theology, and working with the union, I began reading Robert Reich’s works. The things Reich wrote about struck a chord with me. He was dealing with the same issues I was dealing with. This was real. This wasn’t economic theory. This wasn’t some bullshit Hollywood one-night flick. This was my life. These were my patients’ lives. I watched his documentary Inequality for All and found myself dumb-founded. (The documentary was recommended to me by our hospital’s own medical director. These damn socialists are everywhere!) The economy was rigged and nobody was doing anything about it. CEOs were barely squeezing their fat assess through the bank doors to cash their insane checks—checks they wrote to themselves. A select few were reaping the majority of the country’s money. Big Pharma was having a cakewalk buying out lobbyists, senators, and scientific studies left and right. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry became so successful at purchasing studies that in 2005 John Ioannidis, a Stanford epidemiologist, titled his research study Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. Ever since it has become the single most downloaded technical paper in the history of PLOS Medicine’s existence. This shit was pervasive. Our scientific community was being handed over to corporations who didn’t have any sense of ethics. They didn’t give a damn about right or wrong. They didn’t give a rat’s ass about false research, so long as they made a dollar or two.

They placed profit over people. They made economics subservient to ethics. They did what the democratic socialists feared all along: neglected their sacred duty to be good, ethical people. They had welcomed in the greedy, all-consuming hands of unfettered capitalism. A virus so sickening even an ethical human being—when infected with it—fails to abide by simple, universal principles of right and wrong; simple things like “Don’t lie” fall on deaf ears. But that’s what happens when a society, a democratic community of people, allows economics to be the end-all, be-all of human flourishing. When ethics are thrown out the window, all shit is permissible. If ethics do not exist, all things are permissible. And when unfettered capitalism pits economics against ethics, it doesn’t take an MLK to figure out which one goes flying out the window first.

At our meetings with the hospital we asked for safe staffing. We had all of us deliver “speeches” to the hospital’s attorney. Some of us spoke like a Demosthenes. But that was, mostly, to no avail. The attorney, after one such speech, told the nurses to quit offering her “sound bites.” She didn’t give a shit about patient safety or the concern of the nurses. We spent one such meeting discussing safety concerns for something like ten hours. The following day, the hospital’s human resources administrator sent out an email “summarizing” the efforts of the union (in my own paraphrase):

“The Washington State Association of Nurses is requesting that all employees pay union dues. We believe that employees should be allowed to exercise their right to choose whether they would like to be a member of the union and pay union dues. Therefore, we are not in agreement with the union. Negotiations are expected to resume on…”

Reading the email, I realized exactly what it felt like when biased journalism was being passed as dogmatic truth. Here was a summary of our activities, and, while it stated something that was true, failed to convey the atmosphere of those meetings. We were not emphasizing mandatory union membership for all new employees. We were not asking for wage increases all day. We were asking for safe staffing. And we spent the majority of our time giving reasons why. That, in short, was the real concern of the union and the nurses. (Excepting one nurse who was more concerned with money [she was the only bad apple on our team].)

The email hit me like a ton of rocks. I now was able to subjectively relate to those people who read magazine articles about themselves. And the article had (almost) nothing to do with me.

The emails the hospital sent out had a clear agenda: convince the nursing staff that the union was a thorn in their side. Despite this false propaganda—and it wasn’t explicitly evil, it was mostly subtle—we continued having staff meetings, served coffee, and discussed the need for a strong union at the hospital. Twice a month or so we’d meet at the collective bargaining table with the hospital. In between those times we’d meet separately with our attorney, union representatives, and nurses to discuss the issues we’d discuss at upcoming meetings. We took notes, wrote “speeches,” and essentially came up with every argument and counterargument to safe staffing ratios at our hospital. We had scientific research papers showing how state legislated nurse-to-patient ratios, such as those found in California, in comparison to similar states, actually saved hospitals money due to a decrease in infections post surgery secondary to better staffing ratios.[1] A recent article published July 14th 2015 in Scientific American was titled “Widespread Understaffing of Nurses Increases Risk to Patients.”[2] The blurb below the online version read: “Emerging data support minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, but hospital administrations are reluctant to adopt them.” Such was the state of staffing nationwide. And as of the date of this writing (December 22nd 2015) California remains the only state in the entire country that mandates nurse-to-patient ratios by unit. No other state does this. Why? Aren’t there laws in this country mandating how hospitals should run? Well, sort of. The law you are talking about is probably the shitty 42 Code of Federal Regulations (42CFR 482.23[b]). The section you are thinking of states, and I am not joking, “The nursing service must have adequate numbers of licensed registered nurses, licensed practical (vocational) nurses, and other personnel to provide nursing care to all patients as needed.”[3] That’s it. The nebulous and vague language is as weak as a Tweety Bird facing a Marshawn Lynch in beast mode. What in the hell does “adequate numbers” mean? We all know—and I am using the categorical “all” here—that hospitals nationwide are not being staffed adequately. And who is determining what is adequate? The nurses. And I know that they know that they aren’t being staffed adequately. But the hospital administrators—about as detached from healthcare as a bed bug is from beauty care products—have no idea what the hell adequate staffing is. They sure as hell know how to make a buck or two, but don’t give me the nonsense that they understand nurses, doctors, or the needs of patients. They don’t.

It’s no surprise, then, that we never got safe staffing done at our hospital. We never got ratios put into our contract. Of course we knew it was next to impossible, but a couple of us decided we’d let the administration know just how the nurses felt. Out of seventy-five nurses at this hospital, something like forty-five wrote small cards stating their support for our proposals regarding safe staffing and ratios. This wasn’t, in other words, something controversial at our hospital or something we, like a despotic regime, were trying to force upon a non-compliant majority. In fact, truth be told, we were the majority. But not all stories, as I’ve grown to learn, have happy endings. Ours certainly didn’t. However, there were a few things that we did change. We included a code from Washington State that mandated safe staffing committees at hospitals. We copied and pasted it right into the contract. It would, theoretically speaking, give nurses some negotiating power when staffing went downhill. We could, in theory, at least point to the wording and say, “Look, the safe staffing committee doesn’t think these ratios are safe.” We did do that. We also, somewhat reluctantly, spent time negotiating our wages. In comparison to nearby hospitals, we were behind by something like twenty percent. They ended up giving the entire nursing staff, across the board, a two-dollar and fifty-cent raise. They figured, for unknown reasons, that this was a good idea but increasing staff members was not. I have no idea why they did what they did, but they did. So we took our money—and our real fight (i.e., safe staffing)—packed our bags, and headed home.

In all honesty, I left a better—more informed—person. I may have lost the battle, but I have not lost the war. I took the war with me, brought it home, brooded over it for weeks. The weeks turned into months. And here I am, months later, still contemplating all of these real issues. How is it that unions are so weak? How is it that, in America, we no longer care about unions? How is it that at my own hospital nurses were fighting against us—against their own?

Rewind my life a couple of years and you’d find me standing behind a cash register at a T.J. Maxx store in a white dress shirt, a tie, and khaki pants. I was on my way to nursing school, finished my prerequisites, and was killing time during the long months I spent on the waiting list. After I signed on with T.J. Maxx, the managers gathered us into a room during orientation and played us a video. At that time—and this was a long time ago—they still used videocassettes. So here was this chubby, happy-go-lucky manager with whiskers and a thick Italian accent trying to teach us youngsters why unions were scary. He probably was merely a talking head for the corporation doing his job. I now doubt he had any idea as to what he was talking about. He probably got a memo with a basic script, read it to us, and went home to a nice wife, two kids, a dog, all in a wealthy suburb. Even then I never understood why corporations like T. J. Maxx feared unions. What was so bad about people uniting? What was so dangerous about people having power? What was so bad about a democratic process.

And—there—I said it: this was about democracy. The corporations hated democracy. They hated the fact that regular people like you and I could gather together and tell them—nay, demand—certain rights. We, as a collective bargaining unit, could voice our concerns; we, as a community, could have a say in the way we are treated, the wages we are paid, and our working conditions. And two or three big wigs at the top did not give a rat’s ass about your rights. So long as you left them alone, gave them 300x the amount of money their average employees made, they were happy. But they would not be happy for long. Why should the CEO only make 300x more than his or her average employee? Why not 400x more? Why not 500x more? Eventually the CEO asks himself: Why the hell should we even pay these fuckers at all?

            Robert Reich, in his latest book Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, writes about what he calls “the meritocratic myth.” This a capitalist myth invented by the rich and wealthy to keep little people sucking on their thumbs for life. Essentially it goes like this: in a capitalist society people are paid what they are worth. So, if you have a CEO making a billion dollars a year and a worker at her corporation making six dollars an hour, well then, so be it: the worker must only be “worth” that much. But there is a historical problem with this. (History tends to reveal all kinds of problems, in my experience.) As Reich writes,

“Anyone who still believes people are paid what they’re worth is obliged to explain the soaring compensation of CEOs in America’s corporations over the last three decades, relative to the pay of average workers—from a ratio of 2 to 1 in 1965, to 30 to 1 in 1978, 123 to 1 in 1995, 296 to 1 in 2013, and over 300 to 1 today. Overall, CEO pay climbed 937 percent between 1978 and 2013, while the pay of the typical worker rose just 10.2 percent.”[4]

Clearly, as history shows, CEOs are increasingly making more as we are, when our wages are adjusted for inflation, increasingly making less. How is it that in a capitalist society, which calls itself a democracy, we have a large portion of people making these corporations what they are but not being compensated for their work? Why is it becoming increasingly common to think that a CEO—somehow in isolation from all the employees working with him—is the only one worthy of his wages? If you think this is the case, congratulate yourself: you’ve bought into a myth they want you to believe. It’s like a child’s belief in Santa Claus. There’s no empirical proof for Santa’s existence, but it keeps the naughty kids in check. And all you naughty workers need to suck your thumbs and suck it up: life ain’t fair. The CEOs make a lot of money. Deal with it. But how do they continue to make so much money? One reason is that they have money, and money gives one access to power. Access to power gives one access to lobbyists and senators. You get those guys to write a bill for you, favoring you, and you’re good to go. This is why even when CEOs screw up, they still get paid—for the majority of people in America believe all kinds of myths, and the myth of meritocracy is one of them. Take Martin Sullivan, for example. He made $47 million when he left his company AIG. The company’s share dropped almost a hundred percent under his leadership. But CEOs are paid what they’re worth, you say? Thomas E. Freston, the CEO of Viacom, ended up getting a severance package of $101 million after being fired.[5] The list goes on and on ad infinitum.

You know you’ve complained about the lazy McDonald’s worker—and rejoiced when he was fired—but when was the last time you complained about the CEOs and their pay? The rich and powerful have always prided themselves on being able to make the little people wage war on littler people. Seldom do the poor gather together and wage war on the elite who enslave them, the ones who are responsible for the majority of their problems. Welfare is an issue? Are you kidding me? CEO severance packages are the issue. Stop comparing fleas with elephants in the room, pal.

And guess who’s paying for the CEO pay? You and I. You heard that right: you and I. Yes, we’re paying. “[C]orporations deduct CEO pay from their income taxes, requiring the rest of us to pay more proportionately in taxes to make up the difference. To take but one example, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, received $1.5 million in salary for 2013, along with a whopping $150 million in stock options and awards. That saved Starbucks $82 million in taxes.”[6] And you, my friend, the one residing in Washington State, subsidized his pay. We are responsible for the $82 million dollar loss in tax revenue. Congratulate yourself. And next time you pay taxes, remember, some of that money is going to Howard Schultz. Literally.

And while the (mostly) Republican fan base protests an increase in minimum wage, try to swallow the $26.7 billion paid out to the already rich Wall Street bankers in bonuses alone. This “would have been enough to more than double the pay of every one of America’s 1,007,000 full-time minimum wage workers that year.”[7] But enough about the majority of people residing in America. Who cares about those guys, right? All you have to do is work hard. Get a degree. You’ll be fine, they said. Well, that’s no longer true, either. “[B]etween 2000 and 2013, the real average wages of young college graduates declined.”[8] In the past, even a factory worker could provide for his family, stay-at-home wife, and three kids. He could buy a small home in a good neighborhood, and own two new cars. Today, that’s not the case. The worker is making shit, his wife is making shit working full-time, and they can’t afford children or good healthcare. The cars they drive are owned by some big bank. The house they live in is owned by the same bank. The degrees they both hold are in debt—to the same bank. Nothing is theirs. They are, no doubt, slaves to Wall Street. They work, they breathe, they live to pay some dude at the top. That’s the reality of modern America. But what happened? Did our GDP decrease? Did something happen that could explain this profound change in the economic reality of many Americans?

“Since 1979, the nation’s productivity has risen 65 percent, but workers’ median compensation has increased by just 8 percent. Almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top.”[9]

That, my friend, is what happened. No, it wasn’t the Mexicans; it wasn’t the Muslims; it wasn’t the immigrants; it wasn’t the bum that caused your problems. It was the rich and wealthy people mostly populating a small section in New York called Wall Street, and the rest of the Wall-Street-inspired, greedy CEOs.

Let’s play a little game of comparisons. Let’s have Reich take us back a couple of decades.

“Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker earned $35.00 an hour in today’s dollars. By 2014, America’s largest employer was Walmart, and the average hourly wage of Walmart workers was $11.22…The GM worker was not better educated or more motivated than the Walmart worker. The real difference was that GM workers a half century ago had a strong union behind them that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members.”[10]

And there you have it: the solution to our current crisis. It’s been in American history—our history—for a very long time: we need strong unions.

Do we have any real evidence that unionization will save our nation? I think we do. As Reich points out,

“Some argue that the decline of American unions is simply the result of ‘market forces.’ But other nations, such as Germany, have been subject to many of the same ‘market forces’ and yet continue to have strong unions…In contrast to decades of nearly stagnant growth for most Americans, real average hourly pay in Germany has risen by almost 30 percent since 1985.”[11]

Here we see two countries going through the same technological revolution that has engulfed America with vastly different results, on an economic scale, for the middle- and working-class. One key difference is that unions are still alive and well in Germany.

Returning for a brief second to my claim that we need to increase the minimum wage, critics—those people who live in castles made of cloud-stuff and write with immense knowledge from their Ivory Towers—claim that increasing the minimum wage would result in massive unemployment. But has this actually been the case? Not at all.

“Research by Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich confirms this. They examined unemployment in several hundred pairs of adjacent counties lying on opposite sides of state borders, each with different minimum wages (one at the federal minimum, the other at a higher minimum enacted by a state) and found no statistically significant increase in unemployment in the higher-minimum-wage counties…”[12]

There are other reasons why we need to increase our minimum wage. And this one involves the rich and wealthy yet again. (I hope you’re starting to see who’s really causing a lot of our problems.) This may not be news for you but: corporations want to pay as little as they can to their workers. But why? Well, because they can make more money that way. But in paying their workers a minimum wage that is no longer the “living wage” is was meant to be, the rest of us tax payers subsidize companies like Walmart and McDonald’s. Here’s how.

People who get paid a minimum wage are usually on government-subsidized programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and other such programs. Where is that money coming from to pay for these programs? From you and I, yet again. Since McDonald’s doesn’t want to pay their workers living wages—wages they can survive on—they make the rest of us pay for their employees. Next time you walk into a McDonald’s remember that you are helping these workers get their paycheck. Walk in like you own the place (because you do).

If you think I’m kidding, here’s another statistic for you:

“[I]n 2012, 52 percent of fast-food workers were dependent on some form of public assistance, and they received almost $7 billion in support from federal and state governments. That sum is in effect a subsidy the rest of American taxpayers pay the fast-food industry for the industry’s failure to pay its workers enough to live on.”[13]

We the people have come to a point in the crossroads that is crucial. If we were Jesus, this would be our “cleansing of the temple” moment. Somebody has got to stop this. Somebody has got to take a stand and defend unions, fair wages, and stop corporate greed.

In the 1950s, something like thirty percent of the private sector was unionized. Today, that number is somewhere around seven percent. And, not coincidentally, as the union rates decreased, wages decreased along with them.[14] This issue is very personal for me too. I moved from a unionized state (Washington) to a right-to-work state (Georgia). I knew I was in for a pay cut. What followed, however, could have come straight out of communist Russia. I went from making $30.32 per hour (along with evening shift differential of $2.50) to making $27.66 (with no shift differential). That was the best pay I could get—with a letter written on my behalf to the CEO. They said cost-of-living was cheaper in the south. I have found that to be mostly untrue. Starbucks is the same price everywhere you go. And that’s the reality I live everyday. You make less, you spend more. During the time I spent looking for a job, I was offered wages as low as $24 per hour (at my previous hospital, new graduates were started at over $27). The point being that I mostly live paycheck-to-paycheck now. I know exactly they mean when they say, with a meh look on their face, “I live in a right-to-work state.” Wisconsin has this year become a right-to-work state under their governor Scott Walker, a whore in bed with the Koch brothers. Slowly but surely, many Republicans, corporations, Wall Street, and the Koch brothers would like to make a minimum wage obsolete. It would make their lives so much easier. Then they could pay you anything they liked.

In the latest research comparing right-to-work state wages versus non-right-to-work states, those living in right-to-work states (states located mostly in the south) made 3.2% less.[15] The next time you hear a (usually) Republican presidential candidate or senator talk about the beauty of the “free market” and the wonder of “right-to-work” laws, try to do what scientists do: follow the evidence. Don’t let anyone tell you something that is not grounded in reality. The people living in the American South are poorer than those living in the North. That’s the simple truth. If you wish to join their ranks, vote for any Republican of your choosing. If you wish to improve your working conditions and wages, vote for whoever it is that is a big advocate for unions (“collective bargaining”)—and these guys are seldom Republican.

My essay must now come to screeching end. It’s become longer than I initially intended it to be. I thought it’d be short and sweet. Lo and behold, it is long and bitter. I hope my reader is more informed since reading this writing. I believe in democracy not because it is perfect, but because it is the best thing we have. I identify with many democratic-socialist ideals because I think they are the best we have. I do believe in unions and a democratic community of people that isn’t afraid of saying, “Yes, we believe in a government that is not afraid of regulating Wall Street and economics.” Call this a very, very weak form of socialism. Oh well. I’m not here to defend terms or to hide behind words. I identify with many of the concerns Bernie Sanders has. Having said that, I think it’s safe to call me a democratic socialist. I don’t think I, or people like me, have all the answers. We don’t think we do. I’m not saying my ideas will not create problems and unintended repercussions. All ideas do that. I am saying that this—all the words written above—is a good place to start. I am saying that we must not allow ethics to be replaced by economics. I am saying that we need a strong democracy. I am saying that we need to be able to have large—in Trump’s words, “y-uuuge”—unions. Finally, I hope that after you’ve finished reading this—long after—the stench of unfettered capitalism fills your nostrils causing you to increasingly spend a disproportionate amount of time sniffling and wondering what the hell went wrong…

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] P. G. Shekelle, R. M. Wachter, and P. J. Pronovost (eds.), “Making Health Care Safer II: An Updated Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Safety Practices,” AHRQ Publication No. 13-E001-EF (Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [US], 2013). Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/evidence-based-reports/ptsafetyuptp.html#Report. See also “Safe-Staffing Ratios: Benefiting Nurses and Patients,” Department For Professional Employees, AFLCIO, accessed December 22, 2015, http://dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/safe-staffing-ratios-benefiting-nurses-and-patients/.

[2] Roni Jacobson, “Widespread Understaffing of Nurses Increases Risk to Patients,” Scientific American, July 14, 2015, accessed December 22, 2015, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/widespread-understaffing-of-nurses-increases-risk-to-patients/

[3] 42 CFR 482.2—Condition of Participation: Nursing Services, accessed December 22, 2015, https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/42/482.23.

[4] Robert B. Reich, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), 97.

[5] Ibid., 104-5.

[6] Ibid., 105.

[7] Ibid., 111.

[8] Ibid., 117.

[9] Ibid., 123.

[10] Ibid., 126-7. Italics mine.

[11] Ibid., 127.

[12] Ibid., 136.

[13] Ibid., 137.

[14] Ibid., 89, 131.

[15] Elise Gould and Will Kimball, “‘Right-to-Work’ States Still Have Lower Wages,” Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper No. 395 (2015).

Nostalgia: Summer Nights, Kiddie Pools, and Undoing our Growing Up

EXISTENTIAL THEORY

I still remember everything quite vividly. Whether I see us by a campfire on a warm summer night, playing guitar and singing ad hoc lyrics, or in a lake on a burning July noon, what I reminisce about remains the same: we will never share similar moments again.
We won’t have those awkward moments where your mom and my mom start fighting over mundane things like whether we should play this song or that. We won’t have those moments where we are gathered together—all of us—around a campfire strumming noisily on our cheap guitars. We won’t ever be seen again together, walking hand-in-hand on a virgin beach. There will never be another shooting star witnessed by the two of us, by the all of us.
What has been, has been. It will never be again.
We won’t ever be seen again playing hide-and-seek until 2 in the morning—no, we have…

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