stonesphinxes

Everyday Thoughtcrimes

Pause

I’ve been doing a lot of artwork and less writing.

Any requests?

Shelter Me

Several universities are considering a ban on the rather insignificant social media app Yik Yak, which allows anonymous posting to a local bulletin board as:

“People have been saying some very racist, very hurtful things,” (senior, Ashley Winkfield)

Because god forbid our tender 18 – 25 year olds are confronted with any opinions that they may not share.

Little Ashley is scared, because:

“These are people we are going to class with, people who we see every day, and they might have some type of ill will toward us,”

And it’s all anonymous!  So we can’t even alert the Miniluv that there are students, I say students right here at this very institute of higher learning, that are thinking wrong thoughts!

Next thing you know those youths will be Fritterin’!

We’re in need of some reeducation, right here in River City.  Give me a moment while I fan myself and give my pearls a good clutch.

You know what will stop people from having and expressing crimethink?

Lobotomies.

Mostly, they’re not 100% effective.

What I wonder, is why we’ve failed Ashley so profoundly that she thinks that other students who think things that she finds repugnant pose an actual danger to her.  I understand the feeling, in a sense, she thinks because she does not have the self control to simply stop looking at a completely voluntary app where she sees things she doesn’t like, that other students also share the same total lack of agency.

Clearly someone who dislikes black people (or trans people, or Martians, or what have you), for whatever reason, is on the verge of decompensating into a hemorrhaging fount of racism at any second that will infect everything around them.

Of course, it is entirely impossible that someone could dislike, or even hate a segment of the population, and do exactly nothing about it but bitch and whine.

It’s when people aren’t even allowed to harmlessly bitch and whine that they start getting really mad.

Fortunately someone at Duke apparently has a lick of sense:

“On this campus and I think on most, what we tell students is freedom of expression, even offensive freedom expression, is what we cherish,” Duke Student Affairs Vice President Larry Moneta said.

I don’t know what else it is but terrifying when young people, en masse, seem to be unable to tolerate the idea that free speech is not important when we all agree on something – It’s important for the things that you detest hearing.

You can claim to care about freedom of speech when you can grit your teeth and defend the most vile and reprehensible speech you can think of.  Anything less than that and you may as well sign up for the Thoughtpol and man the reeducation camps.

For Ashley, I suggest she move home with her parents until she’s capable of facing the real world.

This might be more comfortable.

We Are All Monsters

We have just recently reached the 70th anniversary of the liberation of those interned at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

When I was quite young, there was a pizza parlor in my town run by a man who had been held in a concentration camp when he was himself a child.  We’d surreptitiously (and likely very obviously) peer over our menus at his identification tattoo, but were too awed and terrified to ever ask about it.

I have always been saddened by the notion that one day there will be no one left with direct knowledge of the atrocities perpetuated by Germany (and Japan for that matter) leading up to and during World War II.  We have such short memories, and just like we have as a culture entirely forgotten the roiling horror of the polio epidemic, I expect we will also handwave and marginalize the Holocaust into something that only happened in movies that starred that white dude who was Gandhi.  We will remember it the way we remember President Whitmore’s rousing speech and the Battle of Helms Deep.

THIS is why you vaccinate your children you stupid silly twats.

I came upon a little corner of the web which I find illustrates perfectly why, exactly, we all must be constantly vigilant about what sort of monsters we all, to a one of us, are:

Awwschwitz:  Adorable Things, In Horrible Places

I’m not entirely sure if it is meant to be simply a novelty, or something more.  I found it incredibly powerful.

This loving father instigated genocide.

The German people of the time were modern, educated, and enjoyed life in a first-world country.  They loved their children, they cared for their families, they wrote poetry and grand literature and gardened and were engaged in their trades.  Some of them were right assholes, and some were beautiful souls.

The majority of these people, when confronted with great evil being perpetrated in their backyards, did nothing.

Many actively participated.  One would think that an educated young man would notice that they’re forcibly cramming women and children into a boxcar, and that those crammed into boxcars are never again seen alive.  That’s not something one can really normalize.  I overwhelmingly doubt that the Germans as a whole were so passively trusting that no one ever thought to ask where the boxcars go.

There are a great number of theories that explain the participation or at least non-interference of the German people in what is clearly and obviously a moral blight.  Most start from the point of view that no rational person would want to engage in this horror, and they were directly or socially coerced.  Soldiers couldn’t disobey orders, ordinary people couldn’t risk speaking up.  Perhaps no one knew that the small actions they were doing contributed to murder, which again, would require any given German to have the mental processing power of approximately 1.5 goats or one small houseplant.

I have a simpler explanation, and I love the simple explanation:

We are all of us monsters.

Inside even the most rational, educated person, there is a transponder with a direct radio to a time when surviving until tomorrow meant annihilating whoever stood between us and food, or sex, or shelter.  This signals up great delight and triumph when someone we perceive to be our enemy is humiliated or harmed.  No amount of moral education can stop the signal, we can only decide what to do with it once registered.

We are surprisingly hardwired to engage in and protect our tribes.  Those who could form cohesive bonds with small groups had a greatly superior genetic fitness, and so here we are, our ancestor’s children.  We love our tribes, and we hate to disappoint our cohort.

Look at this list of cognitive biases.  It’s really interesting, I’ll wait.

There are 90 decision-making biases alone.  (That we know of, of course.)

All of these apply to everyone.  They are part of the hardware of every mentally functional human.  No matter how smart you are, how educated, how morally pure, how modern and enlightened all of these defects will and do affect you.

I have personally participated in studies where we were able to activate the same cognitive errors in nuns, lauded professors, and meth-heads who didn’t graduate high school.

At the heart of every one of us is a creature who can be manipulated or even manipulate themselves to feel entirely righteous in the most outrageous acts of harm and evil.

The most dangerous of all monsters are the intelligent, educated, modern individuals who refuse to believe they’ve a dangerous creature inside.

I am terrified by the smugness that emerges when people ponder the why and how of what happened with the “ordinary German people.”  They are discussed as if they are some defective element of humanity who all managed to end up living in the same country with nothing to do with anyone else.

They’re not.

They’re us.

You’re them.

ISIL and Boko Haram, those are also you.  The Japanese in Unit 721, who undoubtedly thought they were doing a necessary service to their country, we’re them.  Just people.

If we forget the faces and the names of the survivors, if we tear down the evidence of our crimes and build supermarket where the Bergen-Belsen memorial now stands, we must remember who we are.  Because we’re always who we are, and we will do this again.

This man is only evil because they lost.

We’ll Keep You Safe

Even if you think you’re an adult with agency and responsibility, we know that you’re actually a shrinking violet of the frailer sex, who needs protection from the world and herself, says the National Panhellenic Conference to University of Virginia’s 2,000-odd sorority sisters:

At some U-Va. chapters in recent days, students described mandatory emergency meetings with representatives from their national chapter telling them they risked suspension, fines and other penalties if any of them attended bid night parties. Boys’ Bid Night is typically a night when sorority sisters go from house to house sharing drinks with friends.

Now some sororities are planning mandatory in-house retreats that night, to avoid any risk of  inadvertently violating the rule.

At some chapters, women were told not only to avoid going to fraternity parties on Boys’ Bid Night, but to avoid any social gathering with fraternity members

You are clearly not responsible for your own actions and choices, we must protect you from those awful boys.

You know, it would probably be best, since boys are so incredibly terrible and obviously not a one of them have any self control (Rolling Stone has proved that positive of course), that we set apart special “Women’s Safe Spaces” in restaurants and public spaces.  We could even put screens between the sections so that our brave sisters don’t have to endure the patriarchal male gaze.

You know, in fact, we should also institute an entirely new way of dressing that frees women from the aforementioned visual rape continuously perpetuated upon them by those dirty men, and rejects the shallow and misogynistic concepts of modern capitalism-centered beauty.

Take that, patriarchy.

You know, it’s really unsafe out there, and we can’t “blame the victim” by expecting women to learn and behave in ways that don’t directly place them in harm.  We really should have special bodyguards to make sure women don’t get themselves into any trouble.

But, you know, you really can’t trust those frat boys, steeped as they are in anti-woman rape-encouraging culture.  A woman should really have a male family member accompany her to any gathering where there will be a group of men.  She can even wear her new beauty-positive clothing as a statement!

Together, sisters, we’ll show them how strong modern women are!

Appropriation

Part of my personal development in the last several years has been to finally internalize that men like long hair.

Yes, they do.

Yeah, I know your best dude-friend and all your BFFs told you your pixie cut was adorbz.  They’re lying.

The truth is that your dude-friend can’t tell you otherwise because he knows all girls have a screeching harpy inside and he doesn’t know at what level your harpy containment facility is holding at, and this is “Does X make me look fat?” level harpy bait.  Your BFFs are just delighted that they’re now all cuter than you by default.

That’s SO cute on you!  No really!  Super flattering, keep doing it that way. Sound familiar?

There’s even been studies that suggest it doesn’t matter what your face looks like, as long as you’ve got that goddamn hair.

And trust me, this was really hard for me.  I was very resistant.  It took me realizing just how much outward attractiveness matters.  Which is a lot.  I’d grown up in a culture where I had it endlessly held forth to me that people who care about appearance are shallow and beauty came from the inside.

Didn’t really work out so much.

That’s pretty much me, but add a buzz cut, acne, and less social awareness.

Long hair is a pain.  It’s work.  You’ve got to start preparing when it’s only a few inches long.  You have to schedule showers and washing and make some serious product investments.  Say goodbye to the “high” setting on your hairdryer and hello to Mennonite ladies’ blogs.

I’m working on at least mermaid strategic-nudity length and potentially longer if I can manage it.

That’s about right.

My favorite thing these days is coconut oil.  Coconut oil on fucking everything.  Every.thing.  I soak my head in it for hours at a time and have enjoyed the amazing paradoxical effects.

If there are any ladies reading – Holy crap.  Do. It.

Also, only shampoo your roots and only condition the ends.

My favorite hair treatments are those marketed toward Indian women.  I follow their instructional videos on youtube, and, horror of horrors, I scope out the “ethnic” section of the hair care products.  I don’t really see how it’s my fault that they don’t market hair oil to pasty white euro-mutt women, but I’ve caught criticism for it.

Apparently I am “appropriating” Indian hair, and need to check my privilege.  Apparently women of color have worked long and hard to have access to their own section of hair products at Walmart, and I am not welcome on aisle 12.

As absurd as it sounds, I’ve been accused of having “white hair privilege” before.  Which makes me wonder what the advantage is to having hair genes that come from the same place that invented those dreadlock dogs and/or haggis and Nazis.  Half of it is wavy, the other half is curly in the opposite direction, it’s all very big if there’s a microliter of humidity, and there’s no cultural outreach to teach me how to do my hair.

Cultural appropriation is widely defined as:

Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.

So, uh, well, okay.  As I’m lacking in access to whatever cultural bureaucracy grants authorization to use another culture’s cuisine, I guess this will stand as an official apology for eating sashimi served by a Filipino and Korean chef team earlier this evening.  I was planning on making tikka masala later this week at home, but now I am confused and afraid.

I own a 1920’s kimono, which I am proud to say, only takes me 4 hours and one case of tennis elbow to put on.  I am working on some art that incorporates the imagery of Kachina dolls, because it’s beautiful and fascinating.  I first became aware of how Indian women do their hair when I lived next to a community of recently immigrated Indian folks, who also still wore saris daily.  I also think that saris are gorgeous and convenient for the climate, and would wear them myself if I knew how.

However:

the Orientalism that comes with donning saris, henna tattoos, and other Indian ornations, rub many people in both communities the wrong way

And:

An authentic cultural exchange should feel free and affirming, rather than plagiarizing or thieving.

So is it free and affirming for me to wear a sari that is appropriate for the weather conditions and buy the “ethnic” hair products that work really well for me, or is it insulting to the culture those things are intended for?  If I go to actual India and wear Indian clothes in India where everyone else is wearing them am I respecting or insulting the culture because somewhere before I was born someone of my skin color was a total bell end to Indians?

I suppose it depends on how butthurt you feel like being that day.

I grew up in a neighborhood where I carpooled with a Mexican immigrant family who didn’t speak English, my neighbor was a Dutch lady who conducted Tibetan Buddhist meditation ceremonies, and I went to Catholic Mass and Unitarian Universalist services on the regular.  My friends were Indian Indian, and Native American Indian + Italian hash, and  Mexican (of the native incorporated sort), and a whole bunch of other people whose defining characteristic was that they were able to overlook the mortal sin of my wearing puffy paint kitty sweater sets.

That’s actually the sweater. I had matching stirrup pants. My beard was never quite so lush though…

Are we supposed to be a melting pot here?  That’s what I always thought.

We learn from each other, and if one speaks pidgin Gaelic and Mandarin to get along in the world, so it shall be and we shall celebrate with potato pot stickers and soju car bombs.  And it will be good.  Especially after a couple soju car bombs, oh my yes.

Or are we all going to sit in our little tribes and demand that no one else can look at our super-secret special things?  Is everyone’s culture so fragile it can be entirely negated by a silly valley girl’s tasteless Halloween costume?

All said, I never expected to be getting dirty looks in the ethnic hair products aisle.

Edit: 01/25/15 – 8:20p

Just to illustrate, here’s a bunch of people yapping about cultural appropriation of “Chinatown Bags” by Stella McCartney’s clothing line.  Chinatown bags are apparently cheap, plaid, laminated cloth bags used for shopping in low-income immigrant districts of mostly Asian origin.  I guess.  All I got on the first two pages of Google were guide for buying fake Louis Vuitton in Chinatown, and shoes based on said unpictured bags.

This is problematic because we’re ignoring the Asian immigrant plight by incorporating these bags into hoighty-toighty Western fashion.

One trench of irony to leap though –  Plaid is Scottish.

Which was appropriated by Asians who needed cheap shopping bags.  Which then the English, via Stella McCartney, appropriated back.  But apparently it belongs to the lowest bidder.  Whomever wins that particular bracket of oppression Olympics.

Edit: 01/25/15 – 9:51p

My carriage returns disappeared.  I’m allowed to use those, they were invented in Cleveland.

Equal

Blech.

Not just something known to cause cancer in rats in the state of California.  (Though, are we aware of any substance and/or object that doesn’t cause cancer in the state of California?  The best risk management for cancer has to be moving away from California.)

This particular version causes grand revolutions, interpersonal spats, and great outbreaks of calvariam eksplodigi on our great campuses of higher learning.

I have been known to generate high torque from the PC crowd myself, when I state, without embarrassment or appropriate markers of shame, that men and women are NOT equal.

Now I’m not a neanderthal – I think that all human adults of majority age with adequate mental capacity should be able to vote, to own property, to pursue an education in whatever they prefer, and to get paid for their work what their work is more or less worth (not my fault though if you are incapable of negotiating, or feel the need to take sabbaticals to tour the NorthWestern Pacific ashram circuit every three years).

However, anyone who has ever spent a microsecond in a weightlifting gym is well aware that the sexes have some pretty wide gaps in at least physical ability.  Don’t believe me?  Take a set of guys and girls at the same level of total lack of physical fitness and have them train to do pull ups.

Instead of being a believer in egalitarianism, or meritocracy, or any other more sweeping ideals, which I find do not take into account how individual we generally all are, I believe in the The Standard.

The Standard is what any human needs to meet to do The Job.

For instance, if The Job is firefighting, The Standard will be that one needs to be able to sprint up 12 stories in 70 pounds of gear wearing a respirator, in the temperature equivalent of the African Savanna, and potentially haul a 200lb person back down those 12 stories with vigor.  These are the things that are necessary to properly do The Job.

If The Job is nuclear engineering, The Standard will be a high-level education in physics and/or medicine and the ingenuity to put such information into real-world practice.  Note there’s no corporeal requirement whatsoever.  A brain in a tank might meet The Standard, if they were capable of communicating coherently with their embodied compatriots.

If The Job is a public school administrator, The Standard will be that one requires a huge glutenous ass on which to rest comfortably at their red tape dispenser, the possession of at least 7 cats, and a healthy measure of disgust toward both children and those who actually work for a living.

You didn’t turn in your paperwork.

You’ll notice however, that there is no mention of gender, race, sexuality, religion, or any other defining characteristic of a particular individual other than their ability to meet The Standard.  A girl from the projects, a boy from an Appalachian town with a population of 12 and a GDP assessed entirely in dirt, and a transgender Bangladeshi trust fund baby can all do The Job if they meet The Standard.

Sometimes, however, The Standard will be difficult for a set of people to reach.  There may be few women, if any, who meet The Standard to become a firefighter.  Personally, I don’t care.

It is far more important to have The Job done in the way it needs to be done than anyone’s feelings about not being able to do The Job.

Who would I like to rescue me from burning building?  The affirmative-action chick who was allowed to test at a reduced gear weight and half the lifting ability so that the FD wouldn’t get screamed at by social justice warriors, or the huge dude who passed with flying colors, wearing a weight vest just for a little extra challenge?

When my ass is on fire, I’m taking the person who can do The Job.  Period.

I would also take the huge viking chick who wore a weight vest to her testing as well.  The operation here is “Carrying ass out of fire,” not “Being a female firefighter in a display of how anything you can do we can do better.”

Yeah, you’ll do.

The Standard also does not discriminate by poverty level or any other characteristic.  Yes it may be more difficult for little Hiram Skaggs from Dysentery Creek, NC to get into Harvard for that physics degree, but if everyone knows where the bar is set and the bar doesn’t involve your skin color or dangly bits, everyone gets to take their shot per their individual proclivities.

Ideally, if I ran the world, The Job wouldn’t even know it was Hiram Skaggs applying.  They would be reviewing the merits of Applicant 3467-15.

If all the accepted applicants end up being Samoan women, so be it.  If the Coalition of Transgender Vietnamese Speakers is upset about being underrepresented they should brush up on their physics.  Or get more cats.  Or otherwise look into getting their demographic to reach The Standard.

I want the best people for the position, not a happy demographic rainbow of people who are potentially incompetent but check the boxes.

That’s what makes us equal – Everyone gets their shot, everyone gets to fail in their own special way.

And Also Monsters

Trigger warning – Fox News link.

An Illinois mother is charged with attempted murder after attempting to poison her children and herself with anti-anxiety medication.

A commenter via Facebook objects:

Your story said a mother was arrested….may I point out that a mother wouldn’t try to kill her children, only a monster would.

And an additional protest from another:

No “human” would attempt to kill their own kids. The end.

This is an ignorant minimization of a real circumstance.  Humans kill their own children fairly regularly.  Mothers are also humans.  A “mother” is simply a female human who has borne a child (conventionally a living child).  One does not receive a “How to Be a Parent” handbook and a sainthood upon this occurrence.

Women who are shitty people with no coping skills prior to spawning are vastly likely to still be shitty people with no coping skills on the other side of the maternity ward.  Women who are mentally fragile before having children are not likely to have that occurrence improve with an infant to care for.  Same for fathers.  Who are, incidentally, also humans.

Infants and children under the age of 6 are the cohort more likely to be killed by their parents (72% of cases), with mothers and fathers about equally likely to be the killer.  Fathers are more likely to be the killers of older children, but only by about 7%.   Roughly 500 children a year are murdered by their parents in the US.

All humans, not monsters.

Making this distinction where someone who is a mother cannot do such a thing, or categorizing them as something other than a mother when bad things happen denies reality.

Here’s some additional interesting information from NCBI.

Hearts and Minds

I spent a great many years in Southern California, where rivers of bumper-to-bumper traffic begin at 6am and continue until roughly 7pm.  A trip through Los Angeles could take two hours or maybe twelve hours, and one’s daily commute requires a Tibetan-monk level zen acceptance of fate, or the navigational zeal of a Conquistador charting back waters where they’re sure the fountain of youth resides.

I once was trapped in a clog long enough for me to start and finish a short novel, due to a suicidally-inclined but indecisive individual on a highway overpass.  There was no way off the road unless one had a military issue Humvee that could handle a 40* incline, and the roughly several-thousand people at a dead stop were not pleased, to say the least.

A number of them thoughtfully offered to shoot the jumper, as it was clear they wanted to die, and it would save everyone the waiting.  Other circumstances not withstanding, there’s an argument that intentionally blocking California traffic is an obvious provocation to homicide.  No one who commutes in LA would vote to convict, I’m sure.

These dunderheads should take a lesson. 

The way to win people to your side and bring attention to your cause is NOT to conduct activities that will make them froth at the mouth with rage.

Also, you know what you’re doing by blocking the freeway?  Preventing the lower-class people (lots of women and minorities in there) who work hourly jobs from getting the hours they need to survive.  If hourly people aren’t there, they don’t get paid and may lose their jobs entirely.

So in short:

1. Don’t generate outraged indignation at yourself

2. Don’t fuck your constituency

Sounds *Very* Familiar

From a Boko Haram spokesman on the killing of politician Abba Anas Ibn Umar Garbai outside his home in 2011:

“We are doing what we are doing to fight injustice, if they stop their satanic ways of doing things and the injustices, we would stop what we are doing.”

See, if you would just get over your silly thoughts and do everything the way I tell you, we’d have a perfect relationship and I wouldn’t have to beat you.

This group may have killed a total of 2,000 people in the last few days.

Millions have fled the region over the last 10 years.

This is why when a guy says “I’m an asshole.” I don’t pass it off as a joke, like he doesn’t really mean it.  I believe him, and scratch him off my social calendar until roughly the end of time.

Also when a group says “We will murder anyone who insults our religion, and you insult us by not converting to our religion,” I don’t handwave it away as they don’t really mean it, I’m sure they’re perfectly nice, and just like me inside.

No.  Believe what people tell you.

This is why I’m not surprised every time a radical Islamist group/individual does something outrageously violent in either a first or third world country.  Where’s the shock, they told you they would do this.

This Sounds Familliar

Muslim Cleric Anjem Choudary Via USA Today:

So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?

You made me mad, you made me hit you.  I wouldn’t hit you if you weren’t so difficult.

If you simply just didn’t provoke me, I wouldn’t kill you.

Look what you made me do.