In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Arnie Cooper’s writing has appeared in Wired, The Atlantic, and Poets & Writers. He lives in Santa Barbara, California, where he teaches English as a second language.
As I said, maintenance treatment cuts the death rate for opioid addiction in half, which is better than any other method that’s been studied. If you went to a cancer center and weren’t even offered the treatment that reduced your risk of death the most, you would have grounds for a malpractice case. Yet most residential addiction-treatment centers do not offer maintenance treatment and, in fact, oppose it, saying it’s not “real” recovery.
There are more than a hundred more mental disorders in the DSM today than we had in 1968, including incredible new ones such as “sibling-relational problem” and even “partner-relational problem.”
Will we grow buildings? That’s been my hope for thirty years, including making parts of them edible. We’re sitting in a room that has old-fashioned, energy-intensive air conditioning. It could be that someday all walls will be made of engineered living tissue that takes up carbon dioxide and replaces it with nice, clean oxygen while keeping the temperature of the room comfortable for humans and allowing all the microbes in the room to do their jobs.
Yes, during the original Jim Crow era Whites Only signs hung over drinking fountains, and black people were forced to sit at the back of the bus. There was no denying the existence of the caste system. But today people in prison are largely invisible to the rest of us. We have more than 2 million inmates warehoused, but if you’re not one of them, or a family member of one of them, you scarcely notice. Most prisons are located far from urban centers and major freeways. You literally don’t see them, and when inmates return home, they’re typically returned to the segregated ghetto neighborhoods from which they came, leaving the middle class unaware of how vast this discriminatory system has become in a very short time.
I love the idea that there is a proper technique to living on this planet. For too long we’ve had this romantic notion that nature’s perfect, and humanity has fallen from grace, and there’s really no way to be a human being and not abuse nature. But if we view how we live on the planet as a matter of technique, we can see ourselves not as evil but as ignorant. These things are happening because of our poor choices, not because of our nature. We can make better choices. The future isn’t already written.
As we increasingly connect with the world through computer screens, we’re removing ourselves from direct sensory contact with nature. In other words, we’re learning to substitute symbols of reality for reality itself. I think that’s particularly true for children who’ve grown up surrounded by screens from a young age. You could argue that this isn’t necessarily something new, that it’s just a continuation of what we saw with other electronic media like radio or TV. But I do think it’s an amplification of those trends.
And thanks to breakthroughs in electronic communication, we now have the potential to connect every person on the planet in a seamless web of cooperation. Technology has given us the means to build a worldwide movement grounded in universal human values that transcend the barriers of nationality, race, gender, and religion. Back in the early eighties, even domestic long-distance phone calls were a significant expense, and the cost of international phone calls was prohibitive. Now we can telephone around the world for pennies. If we prefer to meet face to face, affordable airfares have made that easier, too. Add the Internet, and the joining of ordinary people in a collective struggle to create a more cooperative global structure becomes a real possibility for the first time in the whole of human experience.
The idea that America’s a democracy is a fucking lie. We’ve had one fixed election after another. By my calculations, Hubert Humphrey beat Richard Nixon in 1968. Of course, Humphrey was a jackal as well. But what is not widely understood is that we’ve always had a system in America of not counting certain votes. My good friends on the Left are afraid that the Republicans are going to steal the next election by computer — that the software is going to allow Karl Rove to change the vote. Well, most people who worry about that are white. Black people know they’ve stolen the vote the old-fashioned way for centuries.
So though our fears and restrictions arise from the best intentions, we have to ask what effect they are having on the health of children, and on the earth itself. Environmentalists and conservationists, almost to a person, had some transcendent experience in nature when they were kids. If we take that opportunity away from today’s kids, who will be the future stewards of the earth?
We’ve made it easier for jihadist propagandists to convince the Muslim world that this is a war against Islamic values. . . . You want to know why we’re losing the war on terror? Because they have the better marketing campaign.
We’re on the verge of an infrastructural shift as profound as any in human history, on the scale of the Industrial Revolution. You might say we’re going to be seeing the other side of that revolution, and it will change our political system, our ideologies, and our beliefs.
Families used to control what their members ate and pass along learned wisdom in the form of a food culture. Now that’s gone. Most people don’t eat as families. We eat individually, going one-on-one with the food supply, which is how the food industry likes it.