Geography of the outside world determines the geography of the inner. Earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy forever changed the geographies of New Jersey and New York, the twin homes of this author’s soul. Lives were lost, and millions were affected, displaced, forced to watch everything they had worked their lives to build reduced to nothing in the span of a night. The financial damage is estimated to measure in the tens of billions. What remains immeasurable is the psychological and spiritual loss of place for ourselves as individuals and as a community. Our identities are inextricably linked to place, and as a shore erodes so do our memories, as a house collapses with it collapses the lives lived within. But neither place nor spirit can ever be fully erased. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has demonstrated once again the resiliency and potency of the human family; that our differences are vain, self-imposed luxuries; that similarity and connection are our greatest truth and strength. Shudder all who dare challenge us.
An unfortunate and necessary result of Hurricane Sandy is the media’s de-prioritization of the upcoming Presidential Election between Barack Obama and Willard Mitt Romney. Thankfully, a Facebook post by BPoFD interviewee Will “The Zurich” Zurich reasserted the primacy and dire importance of this election. And in many ways, that Facebook post decided who will be the next President of the United States of America.
Areas affected by Hurricane Sandy have seen an outpouring of volunteerism, selflessness, donations both monetary and more than. A divisive side effect of volunteerism-and this is true in its every instance-is the questionable motives and potential self-aggrandizement of the volunteer. As Z so astutely observes, these acts are objectively “admirable and heart-warming” in and of themselves, and considerable amount of Facebook users agree with him, this writer included.
Where the post gets “a bit” more dicey-and ultimately, political-is Zurich’s assertion that “you (the volunteer) are a bit of a douche if you feel the need to tell the FB (Facebook) world that [you] did so.” For Zurich, it seems, true benevolence is rooted in anonymity. He continues, “Just do it to do it, not to tell people that you did it.” This is very much in keeping with Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer’s theory that all volunteerism is fundamentally selfish-Singer’s most oft-cited example being that Mother Theresa was in fact just trying to get into heaven, that bitch. The viewpoint is arguably true and inarguably controversial, especially when beloved superhero and transcontinental cyclist Alex Cohen weighs in.
According to Cohen, “If you inspire others to volunteer or donate by posting your good works on fb (Facebook), I feel that’s admirable in itself.” Schoolteachers seem to agree, as exemplified by this rousing post by Amanda “Aman Da” Lauria.
To quote, “idk (I don’t know) some people just like to express their feelings about volunteering and i (I) haven’t seen anyone’s status that said ‘I VOLUNTEERED ALL DAY LONG GO ME!!’ so i’m (I’m) just going to say (‘)agree to disagree(‘) on this one (Smiley Face). Smiley face indeed.
Here, Cohen and Lauria are tapping into the underlying good of morally ambiguous self-promotion. Basically: advertising your selflessness in a shamelessly self-promoting way promotes greater collective selflessness from the community at large by wakening those who haven’t yet volunteered in the only language they understand: the language of selfishness. I believe this is what Cohen and, more emphatically (Smiley Face), Lauria are arguing. But how does this relate to the Presidential Election?
For that we turn to Kyle Kraig.
A philosopher in his own right, Kraig has spent over two years researching alternative lifestyles in the cultural and existential wasteland of North Carolina. This keenly affords him almost infinite perspicacity on the nuances of every possible argument, and he’s at the height of his powers here. Quote, “I agree with what ever (whatever) Will says about anything. Bigs (,) if you would like to know [OMITTED: how I feel about the fiscal] cliff, soc sec (social security), etc (.(etcetera)), you can [OMITTED: ask (W)ill about that too.” Perfect.
Somehow a single Facebook post comes to encapsulate the entire political dynamic of The United States. On the one hand you have Zurich, a vocal Romney supporter. On the other hand, you have Cohen and Lauria, a cyclist and teacher-thus a socialist-respectively, and Obama supporters to their cores. Then you have Kyle Kraig, representative of the entire unaffiliated, uncaring scrum of voters who will eventually decide the election. In this model, Kraig instinctively aligns himself with whom spoke first and loudest, in this instance Zurich, and by extension, Romney. Hence Willard Mitt Romney* will win the election on Tuesday. The writing is on the Walls.
*Except, of course, that Kyle Kraig and potential voters like him don’t vote. By this new calculus, Obama receives two votes and Romney receives one. Obama is reelected, and the geography of our future begins to take shape from all that’s been washed away.