Exciting news! Frankly In Love has been optioned as a feature film by Paramount.
My head looks really big in that photo. That was taken at the premiere of the film adaptation for the book Everything, Everything, which my insanely talented wife Nicola Yoon wrote. Man, what a magical night that was.
Hollywood gods willing, you’ll be able to see Frank and Joy on the big screen soon!
Here’s the full press release:
Umair Haque wrote a fantastic article about how capitalism is fundamentally self-annihilating, and that our transcendence from it is inevitable. Now that’s something to look forward to!
Below is the full article, originally published on Medium.
If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism?
What Would Happen if We Gave Each Other the Things Capitalism Tells Us to Keep From Each Other?
There’s a question that keeps recurring to me these days. It goes like this: if the point of capitalism is to escape capitalism, then what’s the point of capitalism? I know, it’s a circular and funny query. So let me explain.
Here we are, all trapped in and by this grand, global system called capitalism — which reaches into every nook and cranny of our lives, orders our wants and desires, plans our days and nights, and structures our time and energy. You can even talk to capitalism like it was a person now — “Hey, Alexa…” A system by which we mean something like “profit maximizing corporations, owned by shareholders, run for that one sole end, no matter what the cost is to anyone or anything else.” But what’s the organizing principle of life that this system, which is so pervasive and permeating, produces? What are we really trying to accomplish through it?
The worker is trying to become a manager. The manager is trying to become a capitalist. I’ve put that in modern terms — let me put it in Marxist ones, just for contrast’s sake. The prole is trying to become a petite bourgeois. The bourgeois is trying to become a haute bourgeois. The worker, a shop owner, the shop owner, the owner of a chain. Even, maybe, in the small way of “owning” a home — which is to say, paying back its debt all his life — or buying a stock or a bond, and so on: the point is to amass capital. So capitalism is something like a pyramid, which we’re all climbing, worker to manager, prole to bourgeois, and at the apex is the capitalist.
But what is the capitalist trying to become?
The capitalist, ironically enough, is trying to earn his freedom from capitalism — just like everyone else. The only difference is that he’s a step closer. Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago. What is he really after? He’s trying to earn is freedom from labour — not having to do work, hence the slaves. He’s also trying to win freedom from exploitation — he holds the whip, but is above the moral law. And from control, punishment, hierarchy — he has no boss to answer to. Perhaps he devotes his life to more “gentlemanly” pursuits — art, literature, discovery, exploration: but what’s the point of these? These, too, are a freedom from capitalism — from its bruising stress, pressure, anxiety, competition — now he is free to really be himself.
Do you see my point? How funny and strange it is? Even the capitalist is really just trying win back his freedom from capitalism. Buy it back, properly speaking. But so is the prole. So is the bourgeois. So is the wage-slave. Whatever terms we choose, depending on our politics, the point remains the same. So, my friends, are we all — the point of capitalism is to escape capitalism.
(Some systems are self-perpetuating. Like a forest. Like a river. Like an ocean. But some systems are self-annihilating. Like a fire. Like a storm. Like an epidemic. They burn themselves out. We tend think of capitalism as the former — but we are wrong. It is the latter — a self-destroying, not a self-sustaining, system. If we’re all really just trying to escape it — then what else could it be? After all, that means there will probably come a day when we do make our escape — and on that day, poof! — capitalism, at least in the sense above, winks out, like a storm, or a fire. So if we see for a moment through the great lens of human history — first there was tribalism, and we escaped it, then feudalism, and we escaped that — today now there’s capitalism, which we’re currently trying to escape, all over again. But while kings and knights might have not been so keen on escaping feudalism, what’s striking about capitalism is that we’re all trying to escape it — even most of the capitalists — because it makes us so miserable, mean, and foolish.
No, that doesn’t mean there aren’t bad eggs, whose only goal in life is amassing more money, and using it to abuse people. Sure there are. Still, just the idea that even capitalists might be trying to escape capitalism too will probably upset both those on the American left and right, because I’m going beyond Marx, and suggesting “class war” is just as limiting as “capitalism is the sole end of human life!” I think, though, that this is an idea often taken for granted by now in Europe, thanks to Adorno, Adler, Freud, Fromm, and many others.)
You can see it in stark, comic terms. What are Bezos and Musk doing? Trying to flee to Mars. What’s Gates doing? Recommending you books to read, and trying to save the world with charity. LOL — how ironic. These are different forms of freedom from capitalism. Maybe on Mars, we can build a better world. Maybe through ideas and philanthropy, we can solve the problems that corporations can’t. All the capitalists I see are trying to win freedom from capitalism, in one way or another. Aren’t they?
There are many people who, having amassed fortunes, seem under the grip of a kind of compulsion. They must turn ten million into a hundred, a hundred into a billion, and so on. This is what Marx called “fetishization.” Later thinkers, like Adorno and Fromm, would have said that such a person is still trying to escape capitalism — only they don’t know how, the poor things. They are trying to buy love, affection, belonging, meaning, and purpose, they are trying to win the very same self-discovery and self-realization our genteel bourgeois is after, devoting his life to literature or art once he has made his money, with a bigger yacht, mansion, and bank account. But you cannot really buy those things — in this world, or the next. So it’s true to say that mega-capitalists aren’t exactly monks — but I don’t think that means they’re not also trying to escape capitalism, too. They’re just trying to buy their way out.
Then there are many people who are the mirror image. They are not trying to become Bezos and Musk and Gates. They are just there, doing their jobs, earning their wages, and going home. It’s true — many of us try to escape capitalism by making our peace with it. Surrendering to it, in a way. If I do this much work, I might never get rich — but at least I’ll be left in peace this many hours a day. At least I’ll have my hobbies, my interests, my passions. It’s a calculated bargain, apathy, which is always a kind of capitulation, in the end. And it only proves the point — we are all trying to win our freedom from capitalism, rich or poor, prole or bourgeois.
Now. Let me distill the things we are trying the freedom for, from capitalism. Freedom from exploitation. Freedom from control and domination. Freedom to find, develop, and realize ourselves. The freedom to live lives which really sear us with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment — instead of being crushed with anxiety, bruised by competitiveness, and suffused with fear.
So here is the real question. If these are things we are really after — why don’t we just give them to one another? Perhaps that sounds trivial to you, but I want to put in perspective. This is probably the first juncture in human history where we are really capable of giving these things to one another.
We’ve never had the physical capability before. Until this point in human history, we needed armies of labourers, doing the work of providing sustenance to nations — farming, accounting, driving, and so on. But now, finally, technology is automating away repetitive, formulaic labour — not just in the way factories did before: churning out canned consumer goods. But in a real one — replacing their inputs, tilling the cornfields and balancing the books and directing the deliveries and so on.
Nor have we had the financial means. If we wanted to give people all the above, how would we have done it? We had no way to give everyone the means of what today is starting to be called a basic income. Would everyone line up at the central bank? Today, everyone can open an account online at the central bank, and poof — money. If we really wanted to, we could make freedom from capitalism a financial reality almost overnight.
Then there is social technology — social institutions, public goods, and public investment. Only in the last century or so, really, have human beings really become capable of operating things like healthcare, transportation, retirement elderly care, childcare, and so on at a social scale. That is because these things require post-capitalist management, too, which we’re still learning how to do. Who “owns” the NHS, for example? It’s held in trusts by communities. What does it maximize? Neither profit nor planning, but healthcare outcomes, which are measured carefully. Not Marxist-Leninism, nor American capitalism — but a kind of 21st century post-capitalism at work: one made of public goods and public investment.
These three things, technology, finance, and public goods, have finally matured and developed to a degree that freedom from capitalism isn’t just possible. It’s becoming inevitable. What’s really happening as these three forces intersect? Society’s surplus is being reinvested back in precisely the very things we are really after — instead of being skimmed off by predatory elites. Freedom from exploitation, freedom from control, freedom to find, realize, and develop ourselves. We haven’t had the means, mechanisms, or tools, in the long history of humankind, to ever really achieve those on a mass scale yet. But we have them now.
And that is an eminently good thing. It tells me that the obsolescence of capitalism is as inevitable as that of feudalism before it. That doesn’t mean that trade and enterprise and creativity will go away. Quite the opposite. It means that they will be genuinely more beneficial — we can devote them to better things, at last, than money, status, power, and egotism — which is what capitalism limits us to. And through that limitation, by perpetually draining away our empathy, wisdom, courage, wisdom, truth, and happiness, causes us to desperately wish to escape it, all our lives long. No matter if we are rich, poor, or somewhere in between.
With Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, blogging might not make much sense anymore.
But I’m trying it out again.
I say again because I used to blog (on good old Blogger), but then I stopped as I posted more and more of my stuff to services like Flickr and Medium and Behance and dozens of others.
But I’ve been trying to reduce my digital footprint these days, and giving away my thoughts and favorite posts and pictures to a big smattering companies doesn’t make sense.
Also, those companies are basically walled castles, open only to their respective users.
That said, everything on the Internet (all your emails, text messages, and so on) must go through a big company in order to even exist. That’s just how the Internet works.
So the question for me really is: which companies do I trust most with my thoughts?
My answers for now are Apple, Squarespace, and Instagram.
Apple has its issues, but for the most part seems to value its users in a real way because we are harder to win (we have to buy hardware, after all) and therefore are more valuable.
I haven’t heard anything bad about Squarespace. Ignorance is bliss?
And I know, I know, Instagram is owned by Facebook. I really wish I could find an alternative for it. But there is none.
I wish I trusted AT&T more, but I don’t have any choice in that matter.
Same with Time Warner (now Spectrum)—I’m stuck with them whether I like it or not.
Facebook and Twitter have proven themselves toxic, so I won’t put anything there.
Jury’s out on Medium.
For all other services? I’ve deleted my accounts.
The reason I’m blogging again is actually emotional—there’s something nice about visiting people’s websites again like we used to back in the day.
Visiting someone’s website is like hanging out in their dorm room. Feels more personal. It also feels slower.
Moving slower is very important for me these days.
Visiting someone’s website is super different from Facebook or Twitter, which tends to commoditize and genericize people down to data that expires in a flash.
So I guess welcome to my blog! Look around. Take your time.
It’s nice to have you. :)
Someone should remix this with the Pythagoras Switch soundtrack.
This is what the Logan’s Run renewal scene should’ve looked like. What a spectacular performance!
Charming, quirky, compulsively playable mashup of Breakout, Snood, and billiards. I love the weird little mascot, too. I haven’t played a procedural brick action puzzler this much since Lumines! It feels super satisfying whenever you get those little balls really going like crazy.
Fantasic job, Martin Jonasson!
Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.
Rule 2: (General Duties of a Student)
Pull everything out of your teacher.
Pull everything out of your fellow students.
Rule 3: (General Duties of a Teacher)
Pull everything out of your students.
Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment.
Rule 5: Be Self Disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.
Rule 6: Follow the leader. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.
Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things. You can fool the fans--but not the players.
Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.
Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.
Rule 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for "x" quantities.
Always Be Around.
Come or go to everything.
Always go to classes.
Read everything you can get your hands on.
Look at movies carefully and often.
SAVE EVERYTHING. It might come in handy later.
Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:
It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: 'This above all: to thine own self be true'? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come'? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.'
Our century hasn't been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?
For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn't do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy.
Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.
On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.
And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?
Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.
The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature's stern but reasonable surrender terms:
- Reduce and stabilize your population.
- Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
- Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
- Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you're at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
- Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
- Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
- And so on. Or else.
Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.
Time magazine, 1988
the more i think about the results of this landmark study (via national geographic), the more i'm blown away.
we now know that:
- there is evidence of large organic molecules on mars
- mars not only has methane (an organic gas), it replenishes methane on a seasonal basis and we don't know why
the universe just got a little smaller in my mind.
makes me proud to be a child of the nineties. Stick with it until 3:40 for this guy’s awesome freakout.
Good news! I got a book deal with Penguin Putnam. My editor is the incomparable Jen Klonsky. She's crazy wonderful.
My debut novel is called Frankly In Love.
It comes out in Fall 2019.
Entertainment Weekly has more details.
I'm no vexillologist, but I felt compelled to redesign the flag of the United States of America for some reason.
The "bars", which represent USA's first thirteen colonies, have been minimized. Origin stories are important but I'm more interested in the current state of the USA and its hopes for the future.
The "stars," which represent all 50 of the USA's current states, are still based around a five-pointed shape -- which we Americans are really fond of -- but have been turned into diamonds (which are simpler and easier to "read" from a distance) clustered around a common center to signify unity without compromising autonomy. E pluribus unum. Kinda gives it a United Nations sorta feel, which I like.
The aspect ratio is also 2:3 instead of the current 1:2, because that's what most countries use and I think it'd be nice to have us fit in better with the international community.
I also changed the navy blue to a more royal blue, because I really don't like navy blue.
I'm simplifying my digital life: fewer sites, smaller social media footprint.
More thoughtful postings, too.
So here's my newest site. It's Squarespace, which I love.
The old David Yoon and Yoonco sites have been removed and now redirect here.