to karen (2), or: “small fires”

A small fire is hard to see but it’s easy to put out; a large fire is easy to see but very difficult to put out.

– Dr. Mike Ryan, on COVID-19

When I began writing “to karen (1),” I was already personally clear that “Karen,”
while a problem, is not The Problem.

I’d begun to identify The Problem for myself, but did not yet have words
to begin describing it.

I don’t yet have great words, but you know what?

It’s by writing that I find those words, and also

build them into muscle memory.

Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb has guided how I assess the problem of “Karen.” For me, having read Taleb, karening involved what I described as “a transference of skin in the game.”

“To karen,” I decided, means to “take acts that decrease one’s anxiety—to increase one’s subjective sense of well being—by transferring (or attempting to transfer) objective risks and costs to someone else.”

Having read Taleb, the problem with this definition was almost immediately clear to me: The woman-on-the-street engaged in karening has a very limited reach. The individuals with whom she comes in touch may be imperiled by her urgent need to reduce her anxiety at someone else’s expense, but …

From a societal perspective, any individual “Karen” causes qualitatively large but quantitatively small harm.

The much greater danger to life and liberty wouldn’t be one Karen-in-the-park, but people enabled to sacrifice numerous lives and livelihoods all at once:

People who could put not only one or two people’s skin in the game,

but put in thousands, or millions, all at once.

While wrapping up “to karen (1),” I tried finding the Taleb passages I sought in his Skin in the Game. Continue reading “to karen (2), or: “small fires””

comfortable white readers

I’m an early bird. My husband’s a night owl. Most of our dating occurred in phone calls and chats that took place when I’d just awakened from the new day and he was wrapping up the old one.

In our household, this is often a source of amusement. Recently, though, it’s wreaking some havoc.

My husband will climb into bed at midnight, or 1 o’clock, or 2 o’clock. I’ll half-awaken and mumble a few words to him before jolting awake with the realization, Wait! We are living the revolution! I must check the status of the revolution since I fell asleep a few hours ago! Continue reading “comfortable white readers”

each other

From my very first post here, I’ve written about how trauma has shaped my life.

Since before my first breath, I suffered the effects of violence from within my mother’s womb. This wired my nervous system in very particular ways even before I endured my first direct bodily blow.

I don’t write much about many of the specific blows I experienced. Most the specifics are lost to my thinking memory, stored instead in muscle, bone, and implicit memory.

Because most the specifics are lost to my thinking memory, I can be triggered–catapulted back in time, so that I’m confused about whether I’m in relatively choice-filled 2020 or choiceless 1988–without knowing why. Without knowing what sent me back.

A couple of days ago, my sister Rachael wrote “Meringue Pie & PTSD.” Continue reading “each other”