Michael Maiello is probably at the top of my list of internet and writing/publishing friends. He is a regular contributor at Dagblog and the author of several books and a comical play about the Iraq war. I have known him for three years now and he has helped me a bit - gotten me published and helped me through some traumatic life events such as my rehabilitation from SSRI antidepressant use and the loss of my fiancé Jennifer Reimer. He did all of this online too! Maiello, like me, is a deep thinker, and through our talks we don't really seek to avoid but rather to inform. This one is short but filled with some very weighty topics that I know are on many minds. Here goes.
What do you make of Robin Williams' death?
I can't claim to have ever been a huge Robin Williams fan so even though he's got an undeniable genius, this doesn't hit me the same way that other celebrity deaths have. However, I agree with people who compare this death to both the suicide of David Foster Wallace and to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Every suicide is unique, there's no doubt about that. But to the outsider, when a highly successful person, somebody celebrated and somebody with, from a certain point of view, an enviable life does this, it is really affecting because it reminds you that there are some hurts so deep that even achieving the American Dream doesn't heal them.
I have so many heroes who have killed themselves either overtly or inadvertently and all of them were wildly successful. But success isn't a cure and I guess this reminds us that where ever we are in life, we have to work on ourselves, both for ourselves and the people around us. That's easier to type than to do. It is also not a call for therapy or prescribed drugs. It's just a personal obligation we all have when we choose life. There is no one thing to achieve that will make everything okay. As Woody Allen likes to say, life is still about being sentenced to death for a crime you never committed. It's up to us to get over that and to make one movie a year since the 1960s no matter whatever anybody says.
Robin Williams played the actor out of focus in Deconstructing Harry, by the way. It's a hilarious bit.
I can tell from the tone of a lot of people on Facebook that a lot of people find life and this world pretty depressing and they certainly have reason to. Are there positives you'd like to remind people of?
The world is full of things worth liking and we can all make our lists. But the thing I like to remind myself of is that it's easy to get down on just about everything, it's easy to be cynical, and that the hard and worthwhile path is to actually try to like as many things as possible, to be interested in a variety of subjects and to be curious. Also, never to take the Internet seriously.
Pope Francis has said squarely that our economic system leads to war, alienation and other frailties. Do you think it could lead to depression as well? Capitalism, after all, rewards those who manipulate dollar signs, not people who genuinely contribute to humanity.
Capitalism isn't around to make anybody feel good about themselves. Or, I should say, any good feelings are wholly side effects of something else. Capitalism is about finding a way to deal with scarce resources that's short of war. But it can be very warlike. Look at Ferguson. The police there have declared martial law in what seems like a poor area and nobody from the outside is doing anything about it. Capitalism caused that situations because capitalists empowered the police to use military tactics to defend private property.
All that said, capitalism isn't out to depress people either. Any negative emotional effects are also purely coincidental. The problem is that capitalism isn't designed to care and no amount of socially conscious corporate governance or philanthro-capitalism can change that. We picked a system that makes it possible to manage materials but that doesn't meet human emotional needs at all.
What projects are you working on right now?
I've been trying to write a book about a billionaire who buys a country in exchange for forgiving all of its debt. It's a comedy called "We Can Own The World."