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Category: Humans

Put Yourself in the Dog's Shoes
I have known some bad dogs. We all have. For the most part, though, if dogs are treated well by us, then they’re going to be good dogs.

Very good dogs. Our best friends, it is said. Okay, but are they fully committed to the relationship? They wag their tails and seem to be filled with adoration, but is it possible they might be feeling just a touch of say, resentment?

Let’s put ourselves, just for a moment, in the dog’s shoes. We get free food, which we must admit is a pretty good deal. Sort of, anyway. We don’t get as much food as we’d like sometimes. There are no seconds, either, or midnight snacks, or special treats…unless granted by the humans, in their great wisdom and generosity. Even then, it will be only one treat.

Furthermore, we almost never get the really good stuff — the food that humans themselves eat. Certainly no meat, unless you count scraps (waste the humans couldn’t bear to eat). Instead, we get kibble. It’s not that kibble tastes bad. But it’s all we ever get, sometimes for weeks at a time. I mean, Cheetos are good too, but do you want just them and nothing else?

And let’s be frank about freedom, shall we? As a dog, we’re in captivity most of the time. Penned, tied up, boarded, or just locked in the Big House. We could be forgiven for thinking that we are nothing but slaves — if we didn’t so completely buy into this arrangement. It’s kinda pathetic, to be honest.

But maybe that’s just our lot in this dog’s life. We don’t feel resentment because we enter the relationship willingly. We are given food, a warm, dry place to sleep, and lots of pats on the head…in exchange for our freedom.

There is, however, one more little item to consider. Picture us (as dogs, that is) approaching our fifteenth birthdays. Ours has been a full, happy life in many ways, and now we are getting near the end. But wait a minute! The humans — our so-called best friends — still have years, even decades left to live! Long after we have died (or been “put down”), they will sail on without us. Probably pick up a new dog along the way. Or several!

Now do we feel it? We are a lesser species, it seems. Smaller brain, shorter life, and without the ability to speak for ourselves. Plus, no hands! It stinks!

But so what? Even if we do harbor some bad feelings, there’s not much we can do about it. Chew up the furniture? Kill the cat? Become man’s worst enemy? I don’t think so. That would only make you a bad dog, wouldn’t it?
ACSI Explained
I used to be a grown-up. Autonomous, self-sufficient, free. But no more. The world seems intent on turning me, little by little, back into a baby.

Creeping systemic infantilization, I call it, even though people look at me funny when I do.

Take our late model sedan, for example. Cars used to be tough, workmanlike, uncaring. They functioned most of the time, and went about their business without complaint. They were content to let you do the same. It was an arrangement that I was content with, in spite of the fact that I occasionally made some little mistake like not buckling my seatbelt.

Those days are gone. My new vehicle offers me gentle reminders for practically everything I might do wrong — seatbelt, lights, following too close, keys, engine on, and more. In some cases, it even acts for me. Like I was a baby. My responsibility for everything is being siphoned away…for my own good. Like a baby. And I am learning to depend on this “help”…like a defenseless little baby.

Infantilization! And so it is with the rest of society. Gradually, we have been seeing reminders crop up everywhere. Verizon does it, letting me know that my bill will soon be overdue. So thoughtful of them. But wouldn’t it be better if I missed a payment and learned whatever valuable lesson comes with that mistake?

Yes, it’s convenient. Yes, it’s helpful. Yes, it’s a timesaver, a lifesaver, and load off my mind. But pretty soon, I expect that I won’t be able to clothe or feed myself, much less drive a car. I can feel my adulthood — my freedom! — slowly fading away.

Now, I know that we all need reminders once in a while. My life mate issues them on a regular basis, and each time she does I am filled with gratitude. But when we are constantly being prompted, even directed, to do what we should be figuring out on our own, we lose a chance to learn and grow. You know — become a better, more fulfilled human being. Sadly, my life mate does not share my philosophy.

I suppose you might suggest here that my philosophy, in its most extreme form, would contend that anytime we help anyone we are really doing them a disservice. Believe me, it does not. Anti-Creeping Systemic Infantilization (ACSI) does not apply to acts of simple kindness. ACSI is more about the dangers of over-helping. Like giving a man who walks on crutches a third crutch.

Okay, it’s nothing at all like that. But ACSI is a hard worldview to explain. I want to help others (including my life mate) understand it, but that is something they should really learn on their own. They'll get a lot more out of it that way.
Fearless
As I have confessed here in the past, there has been a dark turn in my personal philosophy. I am not happy about this change; it has compelled me to re-examine my whole approach to dealing with my fellow man.

Let’s just say that I am not as upbeat and forgiving as I was five years ago — about my neighbor, and by logical extension, about myself. Are humans really this stupid? Well. I may have found a way back from this metaphysical precipice.

One of the chief drivers of my internal shift has been the shocking propensity of my species — fully comprehended by me only recently — to buy into conspiracies as a way of explaining the world. I am troubled by this because it is obvious to me that conspiracies are a very poor way to explain anything. They do exist, but to believe that they could account for any large, complicated phenomenon in our world would defy common sense or clear, rational thought at any level. I won’t use the word stupid, but I am definitely thinking it.

Conspiracies are frightening, as well, because large numbers of my fellow humans are making important decisions (including voting) based on these misguided versions of reality. It’s beginning to seriously spook me.

But as I say, I think I have discovered a path to understanding that might preserve my mental health — and even restore my feelings for my fellow humans. The secret is not to focus on the illogic of these conspiracists, or even on their manifest foolishness. The problem here is not with reason at all, but rather with emotion.

I think I knew that all along, but until a few days ago, I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant. I tend to forget, I guess, that emotion doesn’t operate by the same rules as reason. Logic doesn’t apply, or even common sense. It’s all about what these conspiracists are feeling.

In these times of pandemics, global warming, overpopulation, worldwide human misery…okay, that’s enough. You get the picture. Things are scary these days. Changes are coming at us at an alarming clip. People are afraid. And that’s where conspiracies come in. When it starts to get too scary, people are ready for an explanation — any explanation — that makes the fear go away. It doesn’t matter that the explanation is stupid, because stupid is irrelevant.

I think that’s what was blocking me on this. I couldn’t see how an explanation that involved dark forces beyond our control could possibly make anyone feel better. Being at the mercy of something mysterious and all-powerful is terrifying to me. How could that help? It doesn’t make sense.

But I have been missing the point. It doesn’t have to make sense. It only has to make the fear go away. If it can supply an enemy, even an unseen one, then there is room for anger. Conspiracies, I think, allow us to get mad. Which is way more fun than fear. Whatever works, right?

So that’s my new theory… something like that, anyway. I’m still working on it. One thing I do know is that this theory is making me feel better. A little more forgiving, perhaps. Hey, whatever works.

(THE END IS NEAR: you can still click HERE
and back Head First on Kickstarter. Thanks!)

Having the Last Wordle
I was not yet active on Wordle the day that WATCH sifted through the word-game’s six-guess system. It was, I have heard, a dark day for many wordlers. Countless strings were snapped that day…and in some cases perfection was lost. Forever.

If you are not a Wordle aficionado, I must warn you that it can be addictive. It does not involve the time commitment of a crossword puzzle, or even Sudoku. The average puzzle engagement lasts five minutes start to finish (although today’s took considerably longer — more on that later). But the game calls on a diverse set of resources beyond a mere facility with language. Survival skills come into play, as does the ability to anticipate the actions of people whom you cannot see and have never met. That is to say, reading the thoughts and intentions of the persons who devise the puzzle each day. They are cunning and ruthless.

But the most challenging thing about Wordle is that you come to expect that you will solve it every time you play. And if you don’t, the sting of failure is that much sharper. Unlike a crossword, it is not possible to change an answer. Each 5-letter guess is immutable once it is entered. As with life itself, we must live with our mistakes.

Besides the addiction and the challenge, then, there are psychic effects to contend with. Indeed, if you are not careful, Wordle will lay open your soul like a shucked oyster. I tried to play the game with WATCH as the answer…and failed. Even though it was not a true “live” attempt, I felt the bitter taste of my own unworthiness. Not pleasant, but I think it’s better for me to have known that taste before I experience it in actual combat.

Yes, I am perfect…so far. 44 for 44, but I know that my own dark day will come. In fact, it nearly came this morning with SQUAD. As the minutes ticked by, I could feel the cold fear of my own inadequacy clutching at my throat. The void seemed certain to swallow me up…me and my pathetic ego. I was doomed.

Then, a breakthrough! A panicked, lucky stab…and a wave of pleasure and relief! I would live to see another day of perfection, even though I know it cannot last.

(JUST SO YOU KNOW: you can still click HERE
and back Head First on Kickstarter. Thanks!)
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Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz