Category Archives: Social

All about the people.

Sense and Sensitivity

Some of you may have heard about Seth MacFarlane’s “performance” at the Oscars recently.

It seems to me that our society is overly impressed with irreverence as some kind of gateway to comedic genius. It doesn’t take genius or even courage to poke fun at the already disenfranchised and downtrodden. If you take a look at humour through a historical lens, you will find that that the vast majority of it is directed at whoever is thought to be inferior within its cultural context, justifying and reinforcing already held attitudes. Look at every major war and all the “humour” that was enlisted to dehumanizing the enemy, some of it produced by the government itself, I believe.

Not all such humour is so consciously or intentionally employed, but it has the same effect in the end. Hearing a sexist joke doesn’t “make” anyone go out and rape anyone, but it sure renders it a little less shocking when we hear about it. What are the comments directed at Salma Hayek but another regurgitated notion of the helplessly virulent man in the wake of feminine wiles? Does it not also makes it just a little more palatable to see so many more men than women winning Oscars or filling CEO chairs. “They’re more for looking at anyways”, right?

Seth isn’t ridiculing the sexist mindset, he’s celebrating it. He is not the socio-political satirist, at least not when it comes to his sexism. When it comes to sexism, he’s the “HUR HUR, I saw your boobs and laugh at your dehumanization without challenging”. It’s not the LOLS, it’s the LULZ. We know their place, and if everyone’s laughing, so how bad can it be?

I want to resurrect some thoughtful point from a post made in response to the Tosh nonsense a few months back. They relate very well to the present discussion.

“If you’re going to make jokes about potentially offensive topics, there’s an easy way and a hard way. The easy way is to just shout out offensive things in the name of free speech and “pushing people out of their comfort zones.” The hard way is to provide an unflinching, in-depth analysis of the way that people deal with these painful topics, to really explore them, in order to make some kind of profound point about them (and be funny).

Most people who make rape jokes (or gay jokes, or racist jokes, or whatever) aren’t smart enough to have anything worthwhile to add to the conversation. They’re hacks. It’s like a little kid shouting “poop!” in the grocery store and then grinning. Truly edgy writing pushes people out of their comfort zones, sure. But it pushes them toward something, some deeper truth or observation about humanity.”

I tend to disagree with the idea that humour makes a message harmless. In fact it’s often quite the opposite, at least with certain kinds of humour that contain a social message and have a target. We’re not talking about rape jokes specifically here, but reducing women to LOL-sex-objects is something that makes it easier by normalizing it and making it just a little less unpalatable.

Sometimes humour is just humour. Sometimes humour is the viral sheath that sneaks that little kernel of social belief past your conscious defenses. Once there, it wraps itself in a protective layer of “it’s just a joke” until you decide to pass it along.

There is a popular fantasy held by the most privileged aspects of society that they are some kind of embattled minority, put upon by “PC” kryptonite wielding mobs. This kind of “humour” is just the extension of that misguided perception, and acts as a further defense against detection and analysis of  it’s meaning.

A few cases of shaky-kneed corporate HR departments with a heavy hand and bad aim who don’t really understand the issues, and they’ll ride that gripe until the wheels fall off, but if you’ve got centuries of marginalization, subjugation, rape and murder, you’re just trying to make everyone feel guilty and probably feeling sorry for yourself. Oh, and the worst thing of all… you have no sense of humour! This is somehow apparently worse than being an asshole.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Speaking your mind against disapproval is only a virtue if you have something thoughtful, intelligent, edifying or at the very least, truthful to say. Without fulfilling that condition you’re just making a lot hot air, and basically just wanking.

In Seth’s case it’s not even against the grain. The fact is that he is really just catering to the masses. People with this particular mindset act like they are the embattled minority they want to think they are. Many of them really know it too when you get down to it, revealed when they get frustrated and haul out their handy dandy ad populum arguments.

So, who’s actually being “over-sensitive”?

I’ll give you one guess.

Bull’s in your Eye

An article came through the feed today that gave a thought-spasm. 😉

It’s unbelievable to me how a person can actually think that cutting funding to under-performing schools makes even the most ignorant kind of sense. There seems to be a large contingent of people who react this way to just about every issue. Screw them over! Punish them! That’ll teach ’em!

To me it speaks to the colonial, religulous mindset we’ve inherited of punishing the undeserving and rewarding those who are supposedly good, in the name of control. It’s the breeding ground of abuse and the core mechanism of stratification. In fact, it ultimately caters to those who are willing to abuse, cheat or lie and cover their tracks. Such is the case with any and every system that tries to dole out rewards rather than making intrinsic rewards be understood and letting them do their work.

Competition can sometimes garner certain benefits, but usually at great expense. When you build a culture complete with social narratives that teach people to aim at B while trying to trick them into hitting A, you are setting yourself up for failure. What will happen is that they will get ever better at hitting B, and you will be endlessly expending your energy trying to figure out how to get them to hit A again. Eventually they learn not only how to get better at hitting B, but also how to undermine your attempts to reroute them until eventually they are completely out of your control.

With capitalism, B is the acquisition of wealth and A is actual public benefit.

With parenting, B is external rewards of material things or even praise itself, and A is the reward of being a well adjusted person.

With crime, B is the punishment of supposed wrong doers, and A is the society the corrects and heals its own ills.

And, with education, B is both the acquisition of grades by the student or the financial success of a school, and A is the creation of life-long learners with critical thinking skills who are prepared for the future and the existence of institutions that promote them.

In each case we assume that each B is a perfect and nearly identical proxy for A, and in each case it’s plain to see with the slightest critical examination we are dead wrong. Instead of seeing it, we opt for sliding the goal post, justifying and maintaining our current view against brain-shattering cognitive dissonance, usually exemplified by hostile defensiveness.

As Robert A. Heinlein wrote: “Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal”

I don’t know all of the hows and whats, and I don’t have a perfectly crafted solution, but it does seem apparent to me that we need to give up all of our “invisible hands” and the “fallen nature of man” notions that we still seem to be unwittingly clinging to.

Idle No More

In light of the recent surge of Idle No More into public awareness, one might feel a kind of cognitive dissonance; a sense of conflicted realities. We have this popular notion that Canada is one of the “good guys” of the world. We have national health care, progressive policies and the expectation of being liked almost anywhere we can travel. So what is all this about? Why are these people complaining? Don’t they get lots of handouts from the government?

You might deal with it by telling yourself that it can’t be that bad. You might remind yourself that this is all about what happened in the past. You weren’t even alive then! Oh, you know there were residential schools and some abuses and stuff, but you just don’t understand why they are coming after you. Why should you have to pay for what you didn’t do? You life has been a struggle too, and you’ve had to fight for everything you’ve got. How can you be the culprit.

That’s just it. We who are colonizers of this land feel implicated, blamed and attacked. In fact we feel threatened most of the time whether or not we think too much about it. It’s constantly in our face on the news and the newspaper stands and the talk in the office and with friends. Murders, car-jacking and theft, gangs and drug violence, and it almost always “those natives”. Oh, you’re not racist or anything. It’s not racist if it’s true, right?

Yet, these factoids and headlines, or more importantly what they suggest and even assert as the truth behind the events,  fall apart upon inspection, but chances are that you haven’t thought about it too hard. You take the explanation that is readily available; your personal crisis is abated. Why would you look for other perspectives when you already have one that fits? There is no problem here, and the fault is theirs anyway.

This is what we learned in school and likely at home. There are rules, and when they are broken the job is to find the culprit and stick it to them. We had two worlds then; home life and school. Those other students only existed in our school world. The reality of their home and life before us had no real estate in our brains. If they were bad in school, they were just bad kids. There was no camaraderie with them, no empathetic investigation into what they were experiencing, and perhaps most importantly, no thought of whether they were in fact doing anything differently than any other student in the first place. Labels are assigned and the order established.  With the attention of teacher and judgement of the class diverted, we could get back to trying to survive our day without being yelled at or teased.

Come back to the present. These days we point fingers and yell “corruption!” at the mere accusation of foul play in the aboriginal community. You know it’s justified. You can no longer remember why you are so certain, but it’s true anyway and there’s little time to waste on being “PC” about it. Society is crumbling and we need to fix this NOW! Take away their autonomy since they obviously aren’t capable.

Two plus two equals C-45.

Where does corruption really lie? Is it possible that we are grossly biased toward our own legitimacy over others, and against all facts of the matter? Should another country move in on our corrupt, robo-calling government?

Some more questions for you:
Do you remember when you started believing what you believe or why you did? Are you getting both sides of the story? Where does your information come from? Who owns your media sources? What are their interests, motivation and ethics? If their mandate is profit (which corporate executives are legally mandated to do), is there more profit in challenging popular beliefs, or in catering to them? Yes, this goes for both left and right who are both often guilty of missing the facts. Do they stand to make more in direct sales of their media, or in popular acceptance of their ideology? More importantly, why have you never been prompted to ask these questions before?

As hard as life can be for all of us, we do have a kind of privilege as the children of colonizers. It’s the ability to deny, to pretend, and to ignore. The ability to not have to think too critically about what we believe. It’s a luxury that we seem able to afford when not everyone can. Yet, nothing is denied forever. Reality is greater than our wishful thinking. or our fearful avoidance. It always finds its way.

On many fronts we are now being made to face the denied reality of those who have long since passed. Our biosphere groans under our weight, bodies and minds crumbling under an exasperated economy and stress load. None of us can afford to put our head in the sand, least of all those of us who can speak without being smothered by stigma and prejudice.

Yet do not think that First Nations peoples are weak. They do not need our salvation. Pity is also not empowerment. It’s not about feeling guilty or making restitution for the past. It’s about stopping the present character assassination through sensational, selective journalism and in the public discourse. It’s about seeking out their voice and ceasing to silence. It’s about getting behind instead of piously reaching down.

If you want to change something, start with yourself. Learn your history. Be honest about what you have done and take responsibility for what you have inherited. It may not be your fault, but you are here. Who else is going to take up the challenge. Finally, if you are going to help a community, you need to put aside your ego and serve their goals and respect their autonomy,

Since I cannot explain it better than this man. I leave you with this:

Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

Means and Ends

Q: What is the purpose of an economic system?
A: To provide the goods and services people need.

Period. End of story.

Profits were meant to be a motivator to drive the creation of those goods and services as a self-selecting response to the needs of people. Somewhere along the line, they started convincing us that the means were more important than the ends. The means have supplant their intended ends and taken up the throne as an ultimate end unto themselves.

Yet, some of us still have to live in this real world where everything has cause and effect. The real world, where people lose their homes, their livelihoods, and die without adequate care. We can’t afford to live in the bubble these people have created for themselves where profits are the self-referential moral reward for the mere act of having acquired them. That bubble has run out of room to grow. That bubble needs to burst.

I’m going to be a bit radical and suggest that we stop acting surprised.

Let’s stop acting surprised when Wall Street has a meltdown and we find out they’ve been squandering everyone’s livelihoods. Let’s stop acting surprised when we find corporations institutionalizing young people in prison for years for extremely minor incidents. Let’s stop acting surprised when global corporations bully farmers into either buying their GMO seeds or suing them into the ground. Let’s stop acting surprised when buy out state senators to be pawns for their agenda. Let’s stop acting surprised every time there’s a dirty deal, a cover-up, infiltration of legislative bodies, broken regulations and outright murder of every day people.

We may find it shocking, as well we should, but it should not be surprising. If you actually discern the nature of our economic and ideological systems, these are all “natural” progressions of those values and ideas.

Corporations and even government systems with the same values, are extremely efficient.

What are they efficient at? They are efficient at maximizing SHORT TERM PROFITS… and NOTHING ELSE! PERIOD! The next time you see some shocking example of “corruption”, just remember this, and everything will become crystal clear!

Can we please stop deluding ourselves that there is some kind of moral fix to be applied to a “few bad apples”?
Can we please break out of our own bubble? It’s time that we paid attention to what’s happening. It’s time we started thinking for ourselves.

There is a flip-side to this however. There is a means of resistance not often talked about.

Every time they go into the world and tilt the playing field more in their favour, through lobbying and infiltration of our legal systems, infiltration of regulatory agencies, and every other kind of backroom deal, they put pressure on the public. Pressure to meet basic needs. Pressure to live free of suffering. Pressure to live!

You might recognize some of the signs:
– Depression and other mental health issues.
– Racial and class segregation.
– Increased isolation and decline of local community.
– Violent crime
– Drug use

All of these are either created or aggravated by social and economic pressures, sometimes creating inter-generational feedback effects. We are socially trained to write other people off and dehumanize them, to tell them to pull up their own bootstraps, the we deserve everything we’ve “earned for ourselves” (sound familiar?) and convince ourselves that taking care of only me and mine is not just OK, but a duty.

I am coming to believe that when we do this, we are complicit. We take up our place as a brick in the wall, a support for the hierarchy that we ourselves are suffering under. It’s not just a fluffy notion about karma, but about being an actual node in a great system of cause and affect.

It’s time that found some new motivators. It’s time we took responsibility for our own awareness. It’s time we created our own world to benefit all. We need to do this globally and systemically.

I’m Privileged and I Know it (Work it Out)!

I came across a very interesting article today that I wanted to make some commentary on.

This was a very well written article, and he does a brilliant job of describing the main concept of privilege distress. I believe it is very true that winning people is very important.

It should be fairly obvious to someone who understands women’s issues, for example, that winning people over to feminist understanding will have a much more transformative impact than passing a limited bill in some isolated jurisdiction.

Not to argue against those changes, but I can even see how small changes can have an entrenching effect among the privileged masses if it gets a certain kind of publicity that leaves them believing that they are an embattled minority that is losing ground.

I get the concept and its importance.

In my own life, I have gone through such a transformation. I have traversed from a position unaware privilege, to not only becoming aware of much of my privilege, but actually being in a process of continually exploring and deconstructing it. None of this could have happened without the long and determined effort of my partner. It also couldn’t have happened without a certain willingness on my part to wrestle with my own privileged distress that arose when I was being challenged.

The thing is that I could never wish upon, and certainly not demand from anyone, what my partner had to go through. She has reminded me recently of some of the ways that I reacted and the things I said along the way; things that with most people would leave me frothing at the mouth were I in her shoes. I would have to not only have a certain emotional investment, but also a willingness to endure the pain and frustration of being misunderstood and misrepresented by the person having the privileged distress, as they inevitably resist. There are degrees of resistance, but it is always present. If there is privilege, there is resistance. It’s simply a fact.

What gets me about this article is that he doesn’t seem to explicitly state who his audience is. I’m left to believe that the marginalized themselves are at the very least being included if not singled out. The personal pain that I experience as described above is not even fully my own. It is merely the pain of being an advocate. I can walk away from it. I can choose to be silent when it becomes too much, yet that isolation and misunderstanding has still been strong enough at times to cause emotional breakdown.

How much worse must this be for marginalized people who are unable to hide from or avoid their marginalization? How can I, or this author, in any reasonable way impose upon them the burden of coddling the privileged under whom they experience their own oppression (regardless of supposedly benign, non-hating fee-fees). Personally, I just can’t do it.

As I’ve stated earlier, I have come from being very privileged while simultaneously unaware. As I have delved further and further into the mire, I found myself on a pendulum swing from trying to save the world to giving in to rage, first empathizing with, and then mimicking much of the vicious tear-down of privileged rhetoric with no empathy for its proponents. I still do not and probably never will begrudge the marginalized for doing so themselves. How could I? What would this be other than an over-privileged person telling under-privileged best to advocate for themselves? They are reclaiming their right to speak and be angry which we; the privileged, have continuously denied them.

However I believe I am finding that, despite my desire to revel in and repeat the outrage of the marginalized as an expression of solidarity and empathy, this is not the most useful role that I can perform. This author has given expression to ideas that I have been formulating just in the last few months; the idea that my greatest role is to endure the stream of privileged ignorance and fight to maintain my empathy and acceptance for them as good people with bad ideas. To realize that not everyone can be won over, and that their choices are not my responsibility, but to at least not give up on the process altogether and take what is, for me, an easier road.

I can only hope that I am his intended target. Otherwise, I think he has missed it.

Michio Kaku and the Myopic Universe

A critique of Michio Kaku’s video “The Universe in a Nutshell

What irritates me about this narrative, is how physicists as individuals and as a group often conflate themselves (and their field of study) with the concept of physics itself. Yes, ‘physics‘ is, in the broadest sense, the foundation of how everything works. As far as we know there is no reason to think that anything that exists or can be known, lies outside of the scope of everything that is physics. I love physics. I love science. I LOVE pure, humble and impassioned investigation.

That is exactly what is lacking!

The idea that physics encompasses all understanding, is no longer true when you are discussing ‘physics’ as an academic field of study, as a function of limited human minds inseparable from their social, historical, economic, philosophical, and cultural contexts and inevitable biases. The word is the same. Their contextual meanings are not.

In this video, Michio Kaku actually implies with straight-faced conviction that “the internet a simple by-product of electromagnetic force” and then has the gall to suggest that “where there is the internet, there’s prosperity”,  subtly confirming the insidious, but endlessly repeated trope that those poor countries must be full of stupid, unenlightened, regressive, helpless people who probably just need to “get it together.” There is not even the suggestion that centuries of colonial domination could possibly have anything to do with this. Not a peep.

Seriously!? Ass-kissing glasses!? This is something we’re looking forward to? Let’s not talk about the significance that every last goddamn motherfucker in that cocktail party scene was as white as my bare ass in January. No significance there. It just a fun internet video, right. What a buffoon! Talk about a zero-foot view! This is a disgusting display of unexamined, white-supremacist,  neo-liberal, self-righteousness bullshit!

There is no more room in this world for scientists to say “I’m only interested in the science” as if to suggest “that other stuff is just for hippies and people liberal arts degrees.” You cannot divorce any science from any of its inherent contexts. You cannot divorce yourself from the affect of your impact in thought-space simply because you don’t geek out about it. You have a fucking responsibility to be aware, or your so-called science will be infected at a level deeper from which any scientific method can save it.

You will miss the deeper meaning of the questions and completely misunderstand the potential effects the answers.

Keeping the scientific method pure within the confines of the question you’re trying to find answers to IS NOT ENOUGH! The questions themselves need to be examined. They must be informed by deep understand of all of the contexts with which it has an intersection and there are many. If you don’t you end up like this guy, perpetuating poisonous, ignorant, unexamined assumptions, glossing it over with a veneer of grand-scale material accomplishments whose impact and meaning are also unexamined.

I applaud the pioneers who have unlocked many of the mysteries of our world from whom I have reaped many benefits. I now also stand in the awareness of many others in our world who still don’t have access to these benefits. I boldly dare to suggest that the scientific community itself is part of the answer to this question. The reasons for, and solutions to these problems are just as in dire need of exploration, and likely more so.

I can get behind science advocacy. Surely to God (pardon the irony), we need more scientific literacy. We are desperately missing critical thinking on the grand scale. Unfortunately, much of the scientific community itself has many gaping blind spots. Not the least of which is the hopelessly imbalanced distribution of the benefits of discovery, but also the increasing rate at which the direction of research is being steered towards myopic goals of the narrowest, most devious and cannibalistic of minds.

The vast, vast majority of us are not in need of stupid gadgets or trips to Mars. This ultimately doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game. I’m not advocating for other lines of thought instead of scientific discovery. I’m advocating that our scientific communities need to have much broader understanding of the world and themselves, and need tread outside the comfortable and privileged domains in which they now reside.

The humility and passion for investigation of our scientific community MUST go beyond mere academic, scientific inquiry.

Our future depends on it.

Unnatural Selection

This is just going to be a quickie as it’s all I have time for today.

I’ve been lately about how some of these supposedly inspiring success stories that float around are really examples of selection (as in systems of evolution) rather than accurate explanations of said success. I think this holds especially true for actors and other public figures who’s success in one degree or another depends on or at least benefits from popularity. Will Smith comes to mind. His opinions about himself are of the most boot-strappy I’ve ever heard. You heard him 2+2 = “whatever I want it to be”. “The Secret” must really give him a hard-on.

The fact that we hear certain people’s stories and not others is not necessarily due to the inherent survivability of the traits they promote. It may simply be because we unwittingly select and promote them PRECISELY BECAUSE we prefer the explanations that they offer us for their successes, even if they are ultimately inaccurate.

It’s a little bit like breeding many generations of horse, selecting exclusively for spotted coats and then saying that horses with spotted coats are better survivors because “Look! More of them have survived because of spotted coats!!” Indeed it is true, but only because we made it true.

It may be and often is true that for every person telling you that they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps with little or no help, there may be a million more with the same attitude, giving the same effort and having the same determination that end in desolation and obscurity rather than succeeding at something more attainable. This is not an affirmation that “success” (whatever that is), is the only thing that matters, or that an individual should not try their very best and be deeply determined.

The point is that we are sometimes inclined to promote very inaccurate and harmful ideas when there are more accurate and meaningful ones to be had.


On the Rise

Being the fourth of May today (May the fourth be with you), I felt compelled to read a post by “monkey” contributing on the What about teh Menz blog.

It might seem strange at first, but I was immediately reminded of an old article on about rich elites in the U.S. having a sense of persecution while they strangle and subdue the livelihoods of their entire nation.

The connection for me is in this idea of comparing geek culture to religion, except that there’s a more general principle at the heart of it. That is the idea of dominant groups feeling persecuted, and turning it onto those with relative disadvantage.

Now of course, things are never as simple as THIS LABEL makes you THAT. There are places in the world for example where being out as a christian can get you killed. We do well to always keep our minds open to nuance and context against any generalization. Dominance and disadvantage are always relative and almost always simultaneously at work within a group or individual albeit in different contexts. This is the nature of Kyriarchy. I will be using a broad brush to make my point, but I do realize there is nuance and variation. Please keep this in mind.

That being said, I often see a dynamic where the members of a dominant group identify themselves as underdogs apart from whatever reality might be. It seems to me that as geeks, we have long surpassed the aggressiveness and social brutality of any group we might have called “jocks” (whom we still feel inferior to in the privacy of our minds). In reality, we dominate the much of the online medium, now the dominant social arena, and steadily taking over pop culture.

Take the ignorant and moderately disinterested (though still very harmful) sexism of the jock, and make it active and aggressive. Now take that insecurity overcompensating with outward arrogance, give it a dozen red bulls and pinch of anonymity and you have the modern geek. Add a science degree and/or a self conflation with being “rational” and you’ve got a skeptic which is often a scarier monster; Another rant for another day. But either way, from the culture’s perspective, saying male, cis, and even white is usually redundant. There are geek girls (also cis and white), but they’re often not really in the club. We let them in with a token membership (so we can ogle at them of course).

Another aspect of the culture is that like all men, we like to define ourselves by what we are not. Almost universally we like to define ourselves as “not woman”, “not gay”, “not-trans”, etc. For the geek we add “not Star Trek/Wars”, “not DC/Marvel”, “not LARP”, “Not LoTR”, any manner of elitism we can scrounge up gets thrown in the mix.

Anyway you look at it, we seem to more and more reflective of the fearfully aggressive mob, desperately clinging to our fragile sense of identity. But what’s truly insidious about it is that we still sell the harmless, mild-mannered Clark Kent with Superman alter-ego when in reality we’re more like Billy Boy turned Dr. Horrible.

I think we easily forget by the end of the show Dr. Horrible is no hero, not even a grey one. And though neither of them prov to be very decent in the end, Dr. Horrible proves far more sinister and dangerous. He’s Captain Hammer add a chip on his shoulder and a potent mind. What’s makes him most dangerous is that he feels like an underdog, and we want to agree with him. After all, it’s OUR TURN to get the girl dammit!!

He seems to get a pass of sorts because we as a culture, like Dr. Horrible, value smarts and recognition more than goodness and perspective, and it’s beginning to show. For recognition we seek the holy trifecta of status, riches, and access to (conventionally attractive) women’s bodies. All others don’t seem to even warrant our attention except to exert our superiority over them. His are crocodile tears over his own loss, most obviously displayed by the fact that he doesn’t duck out of his villainous glory, the pursuit of which cost Penny’s life.

I think Dr. Horrible is a very astute reflection of geek culture, whether or not he was intended to be so. We’re an insecure and powerful mob. Even if merely socially rather than politically, this is not a good combo. We feel like heroic rebels, but act like The Empire. We are the new gatekeepers. We have become the bullies. We just haven’t figured it out yet.

Morality vs Ethics – Round 1 – Race

There are two concept which I believe are at war in our society. The concepts are of morality versus ethics. In a discussion today about race and privilege a saw an opportunity to show the nature of and contrast between these concepts.

Morality is a process of making lists of rules and managing what I would call a kind of moral portfolio in relation to it. It is a process of self-preservation that only looks are far as one’s own self interest in avoiding judgment and feeling bad or guilty. It also involves a kind of jousting for relative moral position in relation to others. “Oh yeah? Well at least I’m not as bad as that other person!” It is not about investigation or understanding, but about self preservation.

This is why you hear people saying “I’m not racist, I have an ___ friend” or “I love my ___ neighbour”. It’s a desperate attempt to avoid being morally implicated. Doing this misses the point in an epic way. Everything is awash in a battle of aggressively trying to enforce extreme sameness (how come they can criticize but we can’t???), but from a perspective that everyone is starting out on a level playing field when actually it’s not that way.

An ethical view is one based on empathy and understanding. It desires to be as informed as possible, and actively seeks to fully understand someone else’s reality.

“Empathy is about seeing things from another person’s perspective, not imagining yourself in somebody else’s situation. The former is the first step to understanding others; the latter is a kind of naive narcissism that does more harm than good.”

It does not come from a panicky position of self preservation and is engaged in actively listening and personal investigation. It realizes that the idea that I may have something called racial privilege or even lack of race-specific disadvantages isn’t about whether or not I’m a good moral person. It recognizes that being wrong about things is a normal part of human experience, that blame is usually not the point, and even if sometimes is unfair and/or about blame, that it’s still worthwhile to try to understand.

The morality model is far and away the majority model, even among those who have long escaped from other religious ideas. It is the by-product of a society built on competitive and abusive ideologies that convince us that those on the margins are ever ready to sanitize and debilitate we the “normal” (Political Correctness). We feel like we are about to be destroyed while our jackboot is on their throat, yet we can’t understand why they’re angry. I mean before they brought all their snark and anger and everything, things were just fine… right?

Morality says “I’m not guilty, why do I need to feel shame.”

Ethical empathy says “You don’t, but we’ve inherited some responsibility here.”

There’s a brilliant analogy that has been made by a man named Tim Wise:

“I want you to know that this has nothing to do with guilt. I realize that none of the people in this room and none of the people in any of the rooms to which I speak every single week in this country somewhere are the ones who themselves, individually or even collectively, are responsible for the creation of this system of inequality, of privilege, of oppression, of marginalization. And that is not the point. I know we didn’t create it, but we are here now, and we inherit the legacy of that which has come before. If you were to become the chief executor of a company one day, you would not be able to go in and call your chief financial officer on the phone and say, you know what, I want to look at the books I want to know how much we have, what our assets are what’s our revenue stream. I want to know all that because I want to take us to new and greater heights and so you ask the CFO to come in and give you the power point presentation, the spreadsheets, and she comes in with all of this technology and all of this data and gives you the presentation. Here’s our assets, here’s our revenue stream, here’s our outstanding debt. What do you think? You wouldn’t be able to look at that CFO and tell her, you know, I really liked your presentation. It was great to know we have all these assets and some really amazing income coming in, but the next time I ask you to come in and show me that, don’t bring me the debt material, all that stuff about what we owe, because, see, I wasn’t here when you all ran that up. That was that other guy. That was your last CEO. The debts of those older leaders, those are on them. Have them pay them. I am going to make use of the assets, oh yes. I am going to make use of the income, oh yes. But I am not going to pay the debts because they are not mine. You couldn’t do that. You’d be ushered to your car by security. But that is exactly what we do as a society, isn’t it? We say, the debts are not ours. Oh, the glory is ours.”

Horny Balorney

I read an article at Cracked a few days ago with a few misgivings but basically gave it a pass. Then, earlier today I came across this article.

I still appreciate that David made some good point in his usual fun and accessible style. I’m not aiming to throw it out with the bathwater, but with this kind of subject the nuance can be everything so it won’t keep me from sharing in the critique. Besides, any sincere ally should be at least initially receptive. Having said that…

I’m a little embarrassed for being drawn in.

I believe I was, mainly because he threw in the following points:

“Maybe it’s just a matter of having 10 times as much testosterone in their system, or maybe society has trained us to be like this, or maybe we’re all spoiled children.” (I tend to go with the “training” and “spoiled children arguments”)

“Whatever — nailing down the cause isn’t the point.”

…and then kinda sorta explaining that it’s our responsibility regardless, while still (I have to admit) catered to the “hey bro, *wink* *nudge*” mentality. Nailing it down may not be the point in considering our responsibility to do something about it, but it is important that we follow through with trying to figure it. We need test our hypotheses informed with social awareness and then applied against rationality.

An enticing narrative.

I found the arguement convincing on the surface because I have A.D.D. and a relatively high sex drive and am easily distracted. This combined with the constant media and social programming that make it not only EASY to look past the humanity of women when confronted with sexualized appearances, but indeed very difficult NOT to. It makes this kind of narrative very enticing.

Contrary to common understanding, a person’s gut reactions do not automatically follow one’s ideology. It can take much longer to reprogram our “lizard brain”. For myself, it’s not that I have trouble controlling overt behaviour, but more the subtle ways of how I think and feel and connect to my own sexuality which inevitably must have at least some effect on my personal interactions. There is a great human tendency to protect our egos by rationalizing these reactions at the expense of our ideology, rather than the other way around.

The politics of desire.

I think the author of this critique is pretty bang-on! It’s easy to look at our own struggles and subconsciously (or even consciously) presume that women don’t also have physical desires as strong or even stronger than our own. We wouldn’t necessarily hear about it as much since hetero women aren’t bombarded 100’s of times a day with sexualized depictions of men (and lesbian women are listened to even less than hetero women), indeed women’s sexuality has hardly been allowed much room to explore such things.

Essentially, off-the-mark.

Not to mention this idea that hetero-male sexuality is behind every “great” thing ever accomplished or created. It’s insulting to more than just hetero women. I wonder what trans and gender queer people would have to say about this. I dare say it’s even insulting to men! Is there no altruism? Is there no desire to create for the sake of and the enjoyment of simply creating. Are there no gay or asexual men who accomplish amazing things? It’s insulting, because it’s inaccurate.

Yes of course there is an aspect of male culture that does have us doing impressive or even absurd things (or both) in service of our ego, our desire to dominate, and our desire to mate (which often have a great deal of overlap). Yet, I don’t think hat essentialism is the whole or even majority part of the answer. There is a whole world of possibility outside of this framework.

In fact, I believe that our future lies there…