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””

we shape it

My husband, Anthony, and I are both horror fans.

He typically prefers psychological horror, while I favor supernatural horror–you know, the kind of horror that human beings can’t work on one another.

We did find some horror overlap thanks to zombies. Anthony inspired that in me by loaning me his copy of World War Z, which excellent novel paved the way for Anthony and I to date over … zombie movies.

For a few months now, I haven’t been in the mood for much horror. There’s enough to amp up my anxiety in the real world without adding to it with fantasy.

But then … Continue reading “we shape it”

to hero

While reviewing my old Black Lives Matter posts over the weekend
to write “died with his hands in the air” part 2,
I also found a couple of (apparently) unrelated posts
I’d once written after being inspired by
wry and wonderful Neil Postman;

I emailed them to myself without then reading them,
so that I was astonished, today, to read one and
find a #BlackLivesMatter-related answer
(for me) within it.

Today, my husband–a Black man who’s walked with me
as I’ve worked to better understand American racism and Racism–
and I are acknowledging #BlackOutTuesday by buying nothing.

Today, many people we love are posting black squares
on social media and otherwise … listening.

While the black square is not for me,
I appreciate how hard it is to
find words right now, and
see a great deal of beauty in
anyone actively acknowledging, however
they can today–with words,
with actions, with listening-plus-black squares–
that too many people have suffered
for too damn long.

Continue reading “to hero”