A few recent discoveries I am acting around:
First, I don’t like reading non-fiction on an e-reader (unless it’s that sorta poppy, never meant to be read again kinda stuff that compulsively uses the phrase “turns out, we’re wired to … ”) so I’m back to buying more paper books. Fiction still works on an e-reader, because my fiction reading is … not the kind that makes you want to refer back to somewhere earlier … and I tend to read fiction when I’m traveling, where an e-reader is very useful. I still like my Kobo Forma a lot, and I can dodge Amazon pretty easily on all but a few titles I can usually get from the library.
Second, I understand that my family and I are not yet equipped to drive Amazon completely out of our lives. We’re trying, but it is still tangled up in some things.
Where books are concerned, though, I’ve largely shifted to ordering from Powell’s, or straight from the publisher if Powell’s doesn’t carry it in the online catalog. There’s a little more delayed gratitude going on there unless I decide to go to the store and shop, which I tried a few weeks ago and didn’t care for. The close aisles and sense of still air do not contribute to a sense of safety in the current circumstances. So, I order, and even here in Portland there can be a wait of seven or eight days.
Anyhow, I read things like that article linked above, laying bare the hostility to a public good reflected in Amazon’s behavior, and it becomes easier and easier to think about severing those last few ties.
Sometimes, in an unguarded moment, I let a feeling of dissociation go ahead and sweep through me as I think about some weird and arbitrary behavior we’re forced to live with to create the artificial scarcity that props up the content industry. Instead of shrugging it off and thinking to myself that of course it makes sense because that’s the civilization we live in and it just has to be that way, I let my brain go sort of slack and try to release as many preconceptions as I can, turn off the inner intellectual critic, turn off the inner “realist” and just follow the thoughts upstream as far as I can. Let the bland, arbitrary, nonsensical constraints of the system just sort of sit there, looking to me like an alien sculpture might look to an astronaut. And once I get there, it’s a race … waiting to see whether “Jesus Christ, we can’t imagine any better?” or “how is it possible that a culture with so much material wealth can be so blinkered and spiritually poor?” makes it across the finish line first.
I guess as a p.s., wow I’m enjoying reading polemic lately. Katherine Liu’s Virtue Hoarders: The Case against the Professional Managerial Class is scurrilous, delightful, and brawling. The way I felt the past four years was an amplified version of how I felt the eight years before it: Boxed in and alone, uncomfortable with the politics of a lot of the people around me, but feeling cut off from and fatalistic about the politics of my past, which seemed exhausted and irrelevant. While I was grousing and mourning, the kids were getting to work on the junk heap of theoretical spare parts left behind by the death of whatever hodgepodge of Trotskyism, anarchosyndicalism, mutualism, Situationism, and antiauthoritarianism I’d managed to synthesize and building a new thing to go learn about and interrogate. With a small sense of relief that at least the present threat isn’t holding (as much) state power as it was two months ago, it’s easier to imagine new things, allow “but remember what’s true” in alongside “vote blue no matter who,” and extend patience and kindness to people who may be wrong about some things, but are still mostly my kind of people.
As a p.p.s., How to Do Nothing is so lovely. It’s a joy to read.