Friday Free-for-All #77: Pet, ghost, charity, dystopia

Friday Free for All

Here’s the next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.

If you could have any animal as a pet, what animal would you choose?

My friends already know the answer to this question. It wouldn’t be anything big or exotic or unusual, nor would it be anything mythic or legendary.

Nope. My ideal pet is, was, and always will be a dog. The three in my life so far have all been amazing in their own very different ways, from mama dog who raised me more than I raised her, to the clingy, needy one who always came to me first and only for protection and who taught me a lot, to the super-smart, aloof one who, nevertheless, always tipped her hand when it came to giving away how attached she really was to me.

Dogs are loving, loyal, intelligent, and they have emotional lives just as rich as ours. They are able to understand us as well as communicate with us, and have clear wants and needs. They are playful and compassionate and, unlike their feline counterparts, it’s extremely rare that a dog will ever suddenly turn on its human and attack.

In fact, on those one or two rare occasions when my dog was in pain and I didn’t know it and I touched them the wrong way, while their instinct was to turn around and bite me, I could also see the instant “kill switch” for that instinct activate as their brain basically screamed at them, “Nooooooo!” and their teeth would never get near me.

But they did get their point across, and it also meant that a visit to the vet ASAP was in order.

The only reason I don’t have a dog now, just over sixteen months after Sheeba passed, is that 2020 and 2021 have been very unusual years Well, duh. And both years were basically repeats of each other.

The first two months, everything seemed fine, but then we slammed into lockdown in March. It looked like the coast was clear in July, so we came outside — and then cases skyrocketed again so that two weeks later we were back to masking and isolating.

It looks like it won’t be until almost the end of fall until we might sort of attempt normal after vaccinated people get booster shots and the unvaccinated come to their senses. Then again, with the governors of several states doing their best to contravene all of the best practices to fight this thing and with in-person school starting up in various places, we could see it get worse before it gets better.

After all, this is exactly the trajectory we saw with the Flu Pandemic of 1918 — and they didn’t even have a delta variant to deal with, much less a mu.

If you were a ghost, how would you haunt?

I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s line in Dogma, where he plays the thirteenth apostle Rufus, who’s kind of a spirit, kind of not. “You know what the dead do with most of their time? They watch the living. Especially in the shower.”

I guess that’s not exactly haunting, unless I decided to suddenly become visible and shout, “A-ha — caught you!” when somebody was in the middle of having a little “me time,” and I would not be above a bit of ethereal voyeurism.

However, I think I’d also like to go the A Christmas Carol route after a fashion, and it would involve this. Determining which politicians or other influential people really needed to pull their heads out of their asses on an issue and have a true change of heart.

In that case, you can believe that I’d be haunting them day and night to express my opinion and convince them to do what needed to be done — change a vote, support or oppose a bill, talk some sense into their constituents or, in the most extreme cases, to resign office and leave politics altogether.

Which charity or charitable cause is most deserving of money?

Right now, there are two tied for first place: the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, and the reasons should be obvious if you’re paying attention. Both are fighting to protect women’s reproductive rights and body autonomy in the face of concerted efforts to destroy Roe v. Wade.

Ironically, the Roe v. Wade case, which legalized abortion in the U.S. with the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling, started out as one woman’s legal challenge against the abortion laws in… Texas. So yes, we have come full circle, with the Supreme Court suddenly sitting on their hands and doing nothing to block a ridiculous and draconian anti-abortion law in Gilead.

Oh, sorry. I mean in Texas.

In addition to fighting against laws like this and for the rights of women to control their own reproductive choices, the ACLU also constantly fights for the constitutional rights of all American citizens.

And while a lot of people naively have the impression that the ACLU is some far-left organization, nothing could be further from the truth. They are actually neutral, and have defended groups at both political extremes, with one of the more famous cases being their defense of the First Amendment rights of a neo-Nazi group in the 1970s to hold a march and rally in Skokie, Illinois.

As far as they’re concerned, the Constitution belongs to and protects all Americans, and they’re right.

Runners up: The Southern Poverty Law Center (social justice and civil rights for the BIPOC community), Natural Resources Defense Council (environmental protection), and Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ+ rights and protections).

Consider donating today to each of them today, if you can, and think about making it monthly. Giving $5 to $15 a month to each of these organizations only costs you $25 to $75 dollars, but it can do so much for the world.

I know it’s what I started doing the same day that 45 was elected.

And for my readers outside of the United States, please think about helping them to help us as well, or find the equivalent organizations in your own country and donate.

(Note: I am not being compensated or asked to make these endorsements in any way by any of these organizations. I just believe in all of them very strongly.)

Which apocalyptic dystopia do you think is most likely?

Probably the one that the super-elite and the politicians they own are doing their best to engineer for us right now.

They’re aiming for a world where a handful of people control the vast majority of the capital and resources of the entire planet while allowing a larger (but still relatively small) group of much “poorer” elites to serve as their cheerleaders — elected officials, celebrities, sports stars, the media, etc.

So it’s a pyramid with multi-billionaires at the top, a hidden layer of almost billionaires handling their money and their legal affairs, a very public layer of multi- and mono-millionaires providing the bread and circuses, and then everyone else, who are slowly being driven into serfdom via income inequality.

And the multi-billionaires at the top have one desperate hope: That all of those serfs never realize that they — all of them — are the only reason that those multi-billionaires have anything. Cut off the tap, and all of their money, influence, and power goes away.

But… having created this servant class that will never escape poverty and slowly ensuring that they are also less educated and more distracted by petty, shiny things, the rulers have no interest at all in doing anything about climate change.

Why would they? They have the resources and assets to buy their way out of any danger. Oh, Manhattan is flooding and Toronto is hot as balls? Finland is lovely this time of year.

Dubai may be melting on the outside, but they’ve just built a new, environmentally controlled domed city where it’s always 72°F inside (22°C if you prefer), every one of the luxury high-rise towers uses its exterior space to raise more than enough food for the rich people inside, and the starting price for one of the smaller luxury condo suites is $75 million. But we are sure that you’d want something more fitting your station, above the 109th floor, taking up three stories and covering 10,000 square feet per floor, starting at only $250 million.

Or, get what you really want — one of the penthouse estates with roof access including a half-acre garden and patio, and five floors of residence beneath, with 24 ensuite bedrooms, six additional bedrooms, ten bathrooms, one restaurant-style and two gourmet kitchens, a digital IMAX/3D/4DX screening room that seats 100, entertainment room/arcade, full IRL conference room with attached offices and 3D virtual conference room, and shared rooftop helipad.

All of this in a neat 130,000 square feet, starting at only $1.2 billion.

Of course, the lowly staff in Dubai are made up of various refugees, many of them from Afghanistan but, by this point, a lot of them also environmental refugees, fleeing lands that have either become too hot to live in or have just flooded out. What a break for the multi-billionaires, though, because these people work for practically nothing.

Meanwhile, back home in the states, if you happen to toil for one of the companies owned by one of these people, you probably haven’t had the option to flee. If you’re lucky and live in a state like California, then your gross pay for a month could be $2,600 — but that’s before taxes, and it’s only $31,200 per year.

After taxes, you’re taking home a whopping $2,077 per month. But, hey, you work for one of those multi-billionaires and you don’t do it remotely, remember? So here’s what’s available to rent in your area: Small studio, shared bathroom, no pets or cooking in room, 150 square feet, $2,500 per month.

You want cheaper, then you have to commute farther, but that costs a lot more in time and money — gas and being stuck in traffic, or train/bus/subway fare.

Side note: I once met a woman who worked in Burbank, California, but lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and she commuted to work every morning and went home every night… by commercial jet. Sounds insane and expensive, right? Well, here’s the thing…

At the time, housing and cost of living in Phoenix were so much ridiculously lower than in L.A., the extra $250/week for the commuter block of tickets on the regular Southwest flights was still less than the difference in mortgage, daycare, gas, etc. Not only that, but the half hour hop by plane was still less than half the time of any commute in the area that could have put her family in a comparable economic situation.

And keep in mind that she was an executive for a pretty big organization. She just thought of the plane ride as taking “a bus with wings.” Of course, this was before 9/11, and also before Southwest discontinued their commuter ticket package deal. Because of course they did.

Okay, great — so if you don’t want to eat or have health insurance or anything else, that crappy studio is still not doable. Maybe you can find a room in a house or apartment to share, but that’s not much better.

Even if you find someone who’s paying $5,000 a month for a four-bedroom place, it will cost you $1,250 for one of those bedrooms, maybe with an attached bath, but then there are still utilities, internet, whatever other random costs, and so on.

So you’re probably not saving any money at all, and really do live paycheck-to-paycheck. Just hope that you don’t get sick or injured because you don’t have any health insurance or any PTO.

And if you really want to save, then you have to wind up in some sort of co-shared housing where you only pay $500 a month-ish, but then you’re basically living in a giant dorm with no private bedroom, and if you’re not in you’re early 20s or if you’re a single parent with a kid, that’s probably not the deal for you.

Or, in other words, your multi-billionaire overlords are willing to make it affordable for you to have a bed in a warehouse surrounded by strangers. And if you want any help, don’t ask the company. That’s what food stamps and welfare are for, after all.

All the while, the oceans are rising, the weather is going insane and getting more extreme, every week is another natural disaster of unprecedented proportions, and more and more of you living in warehouses are also finding yourselves being phased out of your jobs.

Suddenly, they’re either being outsourced, mostly to Chinese political prisoners making 2 cents U.S. a day, or ¥13 (Chinese yuan), or being done by A.I. and robotics, which are ironically much more expensive than the prisoners, first in terms of recovering R&D costs and then in terms of daily power consumption.

Hell, in reality, the A.I. and robotics probably cost more than you do in the short term, but they never complain, never take pee breaks, never sleep, never, ever think of unionizing or going on strike and, if they do break, they can either be replaced instantly or fixed quickly and much more cheaply than it would cost to fix you in a hospital.

The end game of this dystopia is that the super-wealthy manage to rid the world of as many “undesirables” as possible. To call back to a previous question, Ebenezer Scrooge expressed their thoughts exactly when he replied to a man seeking charitable donations for the impoverished thusly: “If they would rather die… they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”

It’s the classic selfish mindset of the kind of person who would even try to become a billionaire in the first place: “Less for you means more for me.”

But despite that old aphorism, probably penned by Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” that’s really not true at all.

It should read “He/she/they who dies is still dead no matter how much shit they owned.”

And if these bozos manage to kill the planet, they’ll be sadly disappointed when they try to hop onto their little dick-shaped rockets and escape into space. For one thing, they have no idea how many highly trained and highly paid people it takes back on the ground to keep them alive in those rickety tin cans.

For another, they just have no idea, period. So in an ideal universe, we’re actually living in a YA novel, all of this is prologue, and our Gen Z heroes are about to emerge, kick ass, take names, and make the French Revolution look like a polite request for someone sitting in your theater seat to move.

Hm. Bozos — bezos. Coincidence? I think not.

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