FUNNY LITTLE DREAM a few days ago. Living in Greenport and taking my bike on the ferry to Shelter Island, then cycling south to the south ferry, taking the next one over to Sag Harbor, maybe writing, getting some lunch, and then taking that long, tree-lined road into East Hampton. But you know, who’s stopping me? Why not go out to Napeague after a night in East Hampton (or Amagansett and environs)? Then take the ferry over the sea to Block Island. From there you can get ferries up to Newport and from there, the world is at your palms. You could take the roads to Hyannis, the ferry down to Nantucket. Or maybe go up to Maine (somehow, someway) and if you have your passport, and a reasonable story, you can cross over into the Canadian Maritimes. Forever on the road. Sounds like a good story.
RESTRICTED MOVEMENT, or rather, no desperate need to be any place but here. Today, there were whispers in the cafe that Prime Minister Ratas might close the Estonian borders at any time. If the borders are closed, indefinitely, then we are truly locked in. Somehow, I am fine with it. I have stacks and stacks of books that suddenly seem far more appealing. There is nothing better to do than to work through them, make some cognitive and literary jumps. I have been a lazy writer, for the most part, and should press myself more. The main goal is to synchronize the mind and the words. To best express what is going on up here, the experience of consciousness. There is plenty to do in that regard, and so I am grateful for some time off. I have stocked the kitchen (though somehow forgot to invest in toilet paper). Most of the shops here are full. Full panic hasn’t set in. Instead we are rather holding our breath, waiting for an Italian scenario to play out within the next few weeks. I was never a virus skeptic, but having lived through SARS and bird flu, I didn’t know how seriously to take this, like most people. I haven’t achieved, “We’re all going to die” mode, but I’m taking precautions.
BERNARD SANDERS, born in September 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. An early convert to the Civil Rights Movement, not unlike other Jewish Americans who braved the roads down south — Abbie Hoffman comes to mind, or those kids who got murdered in Mississippi in 1964: Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Like many New Yorkers, he found his way to rural Vermont in search of something in 1968. He became the mayor of Burlington in 1981, at the age of 40, and then after serving for a long time in the House, was elected senator in 2007. Sanders was still the most marginal of political figures. Vermont was always an obscure state, and even enjoyed a short-lived period of independence in the Revolutionary Era. The fact that an avowed socialist was even in the Senate was something of a curiosity or wonder. His success in the 2016 presidential election, against a deep establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton, was incredible. And the fact that he was still a front runner for the nomination just a few weeks ago shows how much American politics have changed over the past two decades. The ultimate outsider became mainstream. Why? You must attribute his success in part to younger voters. Younger voters have been asked to take on an insurmountable amount of debt to educate themselves, to get entry level jobs that don’t pay much, and view the chances of even matching their parents’ wealth during their lifetimes as nearly impossible. In short, they are going to turn to someone who vows to eliminate debt and redistribute wealth because it is in their own interests to do so. The situations that caused younger voters to gravitate toward an old socialist are not going away. That doesn’t mean that Sanders will be back, but it does mean his electorate — which will be the dominant wing of the Democratic Party within an election cycle or two — is ripe for the plucking. Some of the younger faces that have been circulated to pick up his mantle are too “New, New Left” to truly pick up where he left off. But there might be someone out there with more working class credentials who can finish off the establishment in 2024 or 2028. In a sense, whoever is the next president won’t matter very much. The writing is on the wall now. Transformation is coming.
IT’S BEEN INTERESTING to watch the flow back to Joe Biden, who was the front runner for so long, until Bernie Sanders “revolution” began to crash the gates. Then the priming by the establishment and its media allies for Biden’s big Super Tuesday win to make it look like he was resurgent, when in fact, two of his more popular moderate competitors dropped out the day before and endorsed him. It’s all made for an interesting show, but it leaves me quite cold when I think of the nature of the Democratic Party and its donors. They stand for nearly nothing, it seems, except the restoration of the status quo. Bernie’s backers are young. For them, he will continue to be a pivotal figure in their political development, perhaps the same way Ralph Nader catered to certain college students back in the late ’90s, a voice of good conscience from the older generation, drowned out by a hostile media and an elite whose chiefest desire was to fatten itself. That doesn’t mean I don’t like him on a personal level. I remember sitting across from him on a train in Washington sometime in the late 1990s. He was going home to Delaware. He seemed like a regular guy then, as regular as they come, and that public service happened to be his business. It’s not hard to imagine him talking to you. Maybe he did talk to me then. Many people of that generation were very tired from the upheaval of their youth — Vietnam, the Civil Rights Era, Watergate, etc. They were still tired of it then, and they didn’t want to hear anymore about change, or even much about the future. They just wanted to go home, put their feet on the table, and watch Chris Matthews on Hardball. In a way, Biden caters similarly to the voters of the Trump Years. Exhausted by the Trump Show, they just want to change the channel for a while, even if whatever else is on just isn’t as entertaining.
THE DECISION to deactivate does not come easily, and once you do, you can still sense the hive mind. It’s out there buzzing, humming. I did not leave social media because someone like Elon Musk told me to. I did it because I have reached the point where I realized that Facebook, and its offshoots, are Millennial creations, and I am not a Millennial. Facebook is constructed in boxes. Boxes of images. Boxes of text. Stacks of boxes (a feed). There is also the constructed individuality fitting into a constructed community. You are a star, yes, but still just a point of light in the night sky. This, to a large extent, is how kids born in the ’80s and ’90s were raised. They were team-oriented networkers, people who didn’t really see where they ended as individuals and community began, because they were all just stars in one night sky. That’s not a criticism of them. It just shows how the concept of social media developed, as an extension of something that already existed previously. I have never been able to adjust my own sense of self to a reality that is built on stacks of boxes. Born in 1979, I am nominally an un-Millennial, but my first instinct at a social gathering is not to take a huge amount of photos and then distribute them among some special friend group. I was born into and matured in a world where these things just did not exist. My soul is incompatible with the hive mind. For this reason, I think it’s beneficial for my soul to uncouple itself from that world of overlapping individuality and community, of boxes. Not because it’s “lame,” to quote Musk, but because it is eroding my sense of self.
I am neither from nor of that world. I must return to the world from whence I came.
YESTERDAY, A DOG BIT ME in Obinitsa Village. I was just strolling through and saw the tiny pooch sitting there, snarling at me. Then, a second or two later, a growl and a bite. It went for my ankle, but its teeth couldn’t penetrate my pants or socks. It only left a scratch. Still it added to my feelings of being totally out of place in Obinitsa, which is a place in Estonia where I have spent considerable time. I get this feeling there, as in much of rural Estonia, that at some point in the not-too-distant past (1960s), there was a lot of activity here that shortly thereafter (1980s) dried up. You know what I mean — the half finished barns that dot the landscape, the run down old collective farm buildings. New York is actually dotted with similar mistakes. At that time, people were intent on public works, planned communities, and they somehow just didn’t function. So Obinitsa has devolved to its status as marginal Seto village, which it always has been. That is its nature, the nature of the place. It’s a pretty area, with great pine trees, vistas. I can’t say I hate it or dislike it. I should I guess feel happy and honored just for the experience of being there. But it never feels like I belong there, whatever that sense of belonging is. I guess I have gotten used to the Estonians over the years, but I am not used to the Setos. It’s a bit much for me to go that deep, beyond Estonia into Setomaa.
I WAS THINKING about this. A number of people have asked me about why I am able to write about my personal life, and have no qualms sharing things. The first thing you should ask yourself is, how do you know I’m telling you the truth? The second is, what is the truth? One interesting concept is how do we omit parts of stories to create new fictional narratives. We leave out vital pieces of information (vital perhaps to other people), therefore creating fiction from nonfiction. I suppose it’s all nonfiction, if it really happened. But then again, if you dreamed it, and felt it in the dream, then it’s just an experience like any other. Flimsy material this stuff called reality. Flimsy material. Another piece of my puzzle though is what I actually think is coming from a Mediterranean heritage. In Northern Europe (above the Mediterranean), you have an individualist mindset. The individual is paramount, as is personal choice. The individual is defined by his or her individuality. Stories about an individual’s life are particular to that individual. Sharing your individual stories is somehow opening up your privacy. But from a collectivist, Mediterranean outlook, I am not so much different from you. We are a bit different — maybe you are female, I am male, or you are older, I am younger — but more or less, our experiences of life cannot be so great. If I eat a meal, are my impressions of that meal so much different from your own? We have all been tired, sad, hungry, drunk, miserable, overjoyed. We have all had great (and terrible) sex. So how is my great sex any different from your great sex? Maybe the details and circumstances are different (with whom, in what location, in what situation) but, in general, we are not so different. This is another reason why I don’t mind sharing some of my experiences. They are not so different. I might arrange them in an artful way to create an engaging new experience, but they do not belong particularly to me and they do not define me as an individual. They are just my impressions of the overall human experience.