I Will Cast Abominable Filth Upon You
Make you vile, and make you a spectacle
Boozhoo! Aaniin! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. The title of this one is from the Old Testament; Nahum 3:6 to be precise. I only know this because it is the opening title from Jordan Peele's new movie, a horror extravaganza called Nope. If this isn’t an indication that we are back in the sorry saddle for this installment then I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you’ll at least like this picture of horses. And if you want to subsidize my efforts toward putting myself out to pasture1, here’s your chance to metaphorically break off a flake of hay to sustain me for a stretch2….
I have something of an evening summer ritual. As darkness looms around 10pm, I usually put the coffee together for the next morning, take a shower, and then, as there is often a sprinkler going, I wander out off the back porch to turn the water off. It is a glorious time to be outside because, even these days that threaten to break 100° during the afternoon, the temperature drops significantly once the sun settles beyond the western horizon. It is cool and often slightly breezy. I love it; the mosquitos where I live aren’t too bad, and the lingering light beyond the western ridges is pale and beautiful and it gets me all stirred-up with the wonders of Creation. There are often distant sounds too; big sprinklers going out in the hay fields, sometimes a cow lowing off somewhere, even the occasional coyote. Then, this late, as if they have the bird world all to themselves, the diminutive western wood-pewees are almost exclusively getting their last few comments in for the day.
Sunday night I was out enjoying it all, looking up at the sky, wondering about the stars that were visible despite all the light pollution rising from Missoula to the east, when one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in the night sky came into view. It was like a train of lights moving quickly across the heavens headed to the northwest. It had to have been at high altitude but didn’t seem much higher than the average airplane. The spectacle was weird, and for a moment I was in full, “What the?!” mode. I quickly realized it was probably one of those Starlink satellite things that that asshat Elon Musk is affiliated with.
The satellites were all the way across the sky and gone in less than five minutes. After my initial surprise I have to say the lights moving along weren’t that interesting to me once I realized what I was looking at. Certainly not nearly as cool as the return of Indians from outer space that I’d hoped for. I thought briefly of my friends at Desert Oracle and their stories of lights in the sky over the high desert and smiled to myself. I also thought of my ancestors out on the prairie, as I so often do, and what they might have thought of such an appearance in the skies over their heads. What a stir it would have caused! To anyone with an important analog relationship to the stars, really, as so many more people did not so many generations ago. On my nightstand is The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley. I’m sure the time I’ve spent with this book influenced my thoughts on the appearance of these satellites.
I didn’t feel a moment of enthusiasm or awe that the satellites exist either. On the contrary, in fact. By the time I made it back inside my house I was fully depressed. I don’t want Musk’s bullshit in my sky. To me they aren’t a sign of the “progress” we tend to worship, but decline and deterioration.
A couple weeks ago my pal AHP interviewed Angela Garbes, author of Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change. It’s not a book I’ve read but I intend to on the strength of THIS INTERVIEW alone. In one part of the exchange, AHP asks Angela, “What does actual security or stability look like? And how can we harness the “mighty rage” of mothers in America that you cite in the book to achieve it?” Angela’s answer is point blank and spot on:
“Rationally so many of people know what the answer is but they will do everything to avoid the reality of living it: white people, people with any kind of class privilege, will have to give things up — comfort, material resources, perceived advantages of private education, time, energy, as well as validation, public recognition for the work. They will have to learn that the point of the work is the work, and the most meaningful benefits of their efforts may not be tangible, immediately evident, or shareable on social media. So many democratic, liberal, and ‘progressive’ people live in this massive gap and until they are willing to stretch and really go there — to understand and live the belief that was is “best” for themselves & their family is actually what is “best” for everyone, especially those with the least resources, this question is always going to seem like more of a head scratcher than it actually is.”
I don’t really even know what these satellites are for. Internet, or something, I think? So you can do “research” for winning arguments with strangers online? So you can do angry hot takes on what you hate about how food writers put everything into a recipe post except the actual recipe?3 So you can stream a movie on your phone while camping somewhere, or order shit off Matt and Karen’s wedding registry online when you’re at your kid’s soccer game, or blast a curated playlist through your Bluetooth speaker while first-date mountain biking in a national forest?
Whatever. I’m disgusted with my culpability in all this but I still don’t care to know more about the damn satellites. I’ve survived more than half-a-century on this weeping planet and that gives me the right to simply not GAF about a lot of things, like any arguments in favor of these blights on my nightscape. I do know this bleeding edge, subsidized-by-us-miserable-rabble technology makes despicable human offal like Elon Musk even more wealthy, as well as that cascading shitpile of obsequious brotastic ilk who prop him up. The world would be better off without any of them. That’s not a popular take on other people, I know, but it’s true: I wish these vile miscreants would stop shitting all over the world and since they seem incapable of doing so I wish they could all be shot into space and forgotten about4. I did quote the Old Testament to open this newsletter. Does that mean we get to throw these billionaire dudes down on the ground and pile rocks on them until they are nothing more than oozing puddles?
Science has made the world a better place for people. Or some people at least – like most of us – just not the vast majority of the world. Technology has made millions of lives easier while billions still suffer. How can we celebrate these achievements while simultaneously allowing so many people to continue to suffer unimaginably? We don’t even have to look overseas to those “other” countries. I can get off my ass here in front of my computer and in less than twenty minutes be observing any number of people who have nothing while simultaneously suffer everything.
Think about the miracle of the Covid vaccine. Science cranked that out in a miraculous amount of time – DURING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION! – then capitalism denied it to poorer countries around the world. Still does, from what I understand. Then privileged people determined they were smarter than scientists5 and chose to ignore both masks and the vaccine, compounding the suffering both here and abroad. And even as Covid continues to rage, the rest of us largely shrug, look to the CDC, who shrugs back, and we go on about our business. The irony isn’t lost on me that pleased as I am about this week’s inaugural James Welch Native Lit Festival, I am essentially inviting people to what is certain to be a superspreader event that will probably lead to someone, or more, down the line dying. It’s just a matter of when, and who does.
We all know this. We all experience these encounters and make these decisions. But like Angela Garbes points out, “So many democratic, liberal, and ‘progressive’ people live in this massive gap and until they are willing to stretch and really go there — to understand and live the belief that was is “best” for themselves & their family is actually what is “best” for everyone, especially those with the least resources,” we’re kinda screwed.
I try and do stuff. So do a lot of you. Mostly it feels like spritzing water from a mostly-empty spray bottle onto a burning barn, doesn’t it? Even just wearing a mask in public feels like that anymore.
Thinking of these things and the lack of collective action is what really gets me down and I try not to. I try and do my part, live in the moment, whatever, but how is that not burying my head in the sand? I think sometimes we need to look at that bigger picture and really really despair if only to be reminded how good we have it, and how critical it is we all give up some comfort and convenience in the effort to make things better for others. We aren’t going to self care, stream an endless parade of television shows, and brunch our way into a better future, even if we are kind to everyone around us. Because sadly, most of us never allow the people who most need our kindness anywhere near us.
An Irritable Métis is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Don’t groan at me, I could have made a “riding off into the sunset” reference.
I really crack myself up sometimes.
Because literally we sometimes only care to know how long it takes to bake a friggin’ potato, right?
If I seem particularly crabby about it all it’s because the stupid pope – head of arguably the most powerful crime family in history – is on Turtle Island saying much while doing nothing and tribal governments seem keen on humping his leg. This is massively off-putting to me.
Can you imagine how it must feel to be a climate scientist these days?