For a while, I couldn’t write anything here because of the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio and the (disgusting, hypocritical) response from just about everyone involved.

For the sake of my mental health, I avoid the news. I don’t listen to npr anymore, I don’t have any news apps on my phone, I don’t read the Times (New York or Los Angeles). Even then, things like this are unavoidable. While I do believe that it’s important a tragedy such as this should be the headline of every outlet, when the response is just sadism from the state, then it’s less news and more propaganda for hopelessness. The news media, for some time now, has no effect on governance and therefore is simply a public relations firm for the interests of capital.

I was discussing the idea of fear with some folks the other day and so many of mine relate not to the nature of the world but rather the force of economic necessity that has been built into it. The experiences of cultural understanding, social purpose, and self-reliance are all fractured by a system like capitalism. This is the sum total of what it takes from us: our very humanity. A forced relationship between the idea of personhood and the individual’s ability to profit. The understanding that a life is considered meaningful only in relation to its economic value. That achievement is a monetary success.

This is why so much of the news is depressing. Not only in its tragedy, but how that tragedy tends to reinforce all of the ways that we live under inhuman values, where only psychopathic ideologies stand a chance at living comfortably. We can all see that things are going to get worse before they get better, but most days I wonder if they’ll ever get better at all.

BuzzFeed announced it was going to introduce Artificial Intelligence to create more content this year. An AI won an art contest last year. It’s just another day in America.

It doesn’t really disturb me that business-types will increasingly turn to technology to replace creatives, because creativity and business has always been a tenuous relationship at best. Of course nobody in America would want to pay artists, because in a consumer society, art is a product and not a language—the way people are commodities and not compatriots.

The difference between art made by a person and by a machine comes down to what any individual believes what art is, and why it exists. If art is just glorified wallpaper or a form of entertainment meant to provide a service for the consumer to pass the time with, sure it doesn’t matter how or why it was created. But if art is believed to be related to the core of what it means to be a human, it matters very much. In capitalist society, humanism is an afterthought to profits and material success, so of course the idea behind a piece of art is disposable.

To me, this isn’t a fight worth getting involved in because the details are representative of a much large issue: our society is built around the foundation that people are more important to consider as statistics rather than human beings. It’s why our healthcare is fucked, it’s why our politics are corrupt, it’s why poverty and homelessness appear on every street. If the very basis of our learning in the United States is that our peers are competition and our nature is consumption, then of course our art will be handed over to a machine programmed to produce thoughtless aesthetics.

An AI can be an interesting tool for a person to use, but given the results of mass acceptance of social media and allowing corporate technology dictate our personal lives and communication, it’s hard to imagine anything positive coming from doing the same with the essence of humanity—our creativity.

It’s been an exhausting week. For whatever reason, I’m reminding myself that most songs are lies, just made-up stories set to a melody. There was once a time I took everything at face-value. My naivete blinded me to the strings attached to phrases like, I love you.

The police are the problem. We’ll have protests. Politicians will publish press releases, more dead bodies will line the streets over time. People talk about another Civil War as if it’d be just a sequel to The Blue and The Gray. The optics of expectations are what is keeping the majority from seeing we’re already in it.

It’s impossible to explain sobriety to someone who doesn’t deal with an addiction, all the ways it can affect any given thought at any time of any day, forever. I’ve wondered if this is part of how it’s always been so easy for me to see the way capitalism is killing us all—the way an alcoholic prioritizes a drink above all else, the United States prioritizes capital, regardless of the circumstance and no matter the consequence.

The mind can be a horrifying maze. The worst memories are the ones that only take place while imagining a better future that will never come to pass. Refracted light decorating the table settings, orange ashtray holding a half-smoked cigarette. A half-second of eye contact tells a thousand lifetimes worth of stories. All songwriters are liars, I think to myself, in the moment, looking at a painting on my wall.

I had a $100 bill on my shelf and one, or perhaps both, of my cats seems to have gotten a hold of it and I have no clue where it has gone or what shape it is in. Who the fuck gets robbed by a cat on a Friday afternoon?