Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thought of the day: Fear of being wrong

Having been wrong is how you get right.

Respect for Free Speech.

You are free to voice your truth, no matter what it is. That's free speech.

And when people voice theirs, and it's vile ugliness and hate, you are free to voice yours in opposition. That's free speech.

Annnnnd if you don't, guess what? That just means you're a disgusting coward. It doesn't mean you respect free speech.

Respect for free speech is best expressed by using yours, to oppose what you claim to believe is wrong.

Monday, August 14, 2017

ATTENTION WHITE PEOPLE

This is addressed to white people specifically. I hope that's ok.

Caveat or, mea culpa - whatever the term is; full disclosure - I am myself white people, though I prefer the term "personage."

White people, at some point today if you haven't already, you will see a viral social media post, with words to the effect: how ironic is it that all it takes is one white woman to get publicly killed in a horrifying video clip to get tons of white people outraged and speaking up?

There are a lot of reasons for posts like this, but let's focus on the end result. The aspect that matters: a lot of people would like you to shut your mouth. Racists especially, white supremacists particularly, would like you white people to shut up. They would like any white people arriving late to the fight to feel ashamed and fake, and shut their mouths in embarrassment. They would like you to question the basis of your outrage, and be unable to come up with a flattering answer. They want you to go back to being the average white person who finds all this so unpleasant and distasteful, and acts like absenting their voice is some kind of high road. They want you to slink back into silence, and let people with strong convictions hold the field unopposed. They're confident they can beat the activists, if bystanders keep out of it.

Well, don't shut up. If seeing that was what it took to open your eyes and open your mouths, don't close your eyes now that they've been opened. Don't shut your mouths. There have been a lot of horrific videos in recent years. There will be more to come. Your voice is powerful, especially in its silence if you let it be silent. Whatever it took for you to find your voice, to locate your outrage and to direct it at those who have contempt - not just for people who aren't like you! But for every human life that doesn't embody their twisted, lost, hateful ideology - whatever it took to wake that up, don't let your outrage go back to sleep now. When the battle is pitched and you are desperately needed, don't quit the fight just because you arrived late.

If at worst, you're forced to feel a pang of guilt for not having spoken out sooner, embrace that pang. Maybe you're one of the people like me, who somehow can't believe people are that bad. Maybe you've been able to shunt away how bad things have been getting, because it didn't cross over into your own life. Maybe you couldn't believe it because nothing had yet brought it home to you. Maybe you were able to rationalize away other attacks, incidents: deaths. "I wasn't there." "Maybe something else happened, to make it make sense?" No, you weren't there. It's been a privilege. Be there now.

Don't shut up. Engage the people who refuse to condemn what is patently and thoroughly evil. Ask them what on earth is wrong with them.

And yes, be aware that there's going to be a bunch of folks who make scathing ironic comments about how long it took you. They've had a long, disgusting, disheartening slog, and their patience is far from fresh. You'll find out a little bit about what that's like, so long as you don't turn over, close your eyes again, shut your mouth now.

Don't give evil the silence it needs to grow unopposed. Don't let your past silence shame your outrage now. Raise your voice, and keep raising it. Do you hate racism? They will hate that.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I am a feminist. But just in case: see pronunciation note.

I am a feminist. I became a feminist after living with a women's studies major for eight years. Then I looked it up in the dictionary. At that point, I became a feminist.

A feminist is one who believes in and advocates for the legal, political, and economic equality of a woman to a man.

That definition's kind of unfairly stacked in favor. I mean, I read that - there wasn't any wiggle room at all! How could I not be a feminist? That definition makes anyone not a feminist pretty much a moron. I didn't so much "become" a feminist as realize I am one. What the heck does a heterosexual man who is not a feminist want, in terms of a woman? What does he aspire to? What kind of dip-stick wants - no, needs - an inferior partner? What kind of coward not merely settles for but demands a partner who is not at least his equal?

It's a good definition, because it focuses on the cause itself. Feminism is a cause. It's my cause. I don't own it, nobody does. It's mine because I believe in and advocate for it.

However! I'm aware over the years that there's another definition of feminist, with which I'm entirely cool:

A feminist is a woman who believes in and advocates for the legal, political, and economic equality of a woman to a man.

Sure, everyone that description fits is a feminist. The accent there is slightly more on who can belong to the club. That's cool too. There's an esprit de corps, people, that can only be felt between those who've shared the same trenches, being fired upon. It's precious, it's sustaining, and it binds people together like nothing else. Whatever your involvement in the struggle, men: you haven't shared those trenches.

I mean, even if hypothetically you went to a literal feminist rally, and it literally happened that you were fired upon by literal bullets and had to dive behind literal barricades with your fellow feminists - you haven't. Even if you literally got shot in that hypothetical incident. Because to some of them, verging on an ideological majority by now I believe (depending on who you ask, and sometimes how), you are not their fellow feminist, and you can't be because you are a fellow. No matter what your involvement in the cause: you haven't remotely sustained under the same withering fire they have. You haven't walked around your whole life doubting, being doubted, flinching from implications, worrying which ones were deliberate and which were just ignorant, getting cut down, discarded, disregarded, all because you weren't empenised at birth. You were not in those trenches. You have DICK PRIVILEGE. Don't be a dick; own it.

Solidarity's important, and esprit de corps is important too. Living through the same kind of lifelong struggle forges real bonds between those who've lived it, and can therefore relate. You haven't lived it; you can't relate. Thank your lucky stars you can't.

Now: this is not to say all feminists hold that only a woman can be a feminist. Only that within the movement, most of the women seem to - and you ought to see and get that there are sound reasons why. Be sensitive to that, and don't try to horn in on the club when a feminist is right there telling you you can't be a member. You don't need to hobnob in a club. You've got a cause.

And what are you doing for it, by the way? If you don't mind my asking?

I'm not talking about being "allies." I don't understand this "allies" biz. The war is long since declared. We don't need allies. We need active combatants. Don't even consider yourself an ally if the extent of your allyship is to express your support to true believers! You'd better be doing more than that. When sexism rears its ugly head, you need to be right there shoving it up its sweet ass. Encounter! Engage! Confront! Oppose! Advocacy does not consist in preaching to choirs! The enemy is sexism, and you need to engage and confront that enemy wherever it is encountered. Otherwise, no: you don't believe in and advocate for. At best, you can claim to believe. Not enough.

Confession time. I must confess: I still say I'm a feminist. I'm always going to say I'm a feminist.

It's my cause. I can't understand any man whose cause it isn't. I can't understand any man who doesn't see how incredibly much we've all benefited from gains made towards equality. I'll always put it forth that I'm a feminist. But I'll put it forth tentatively, and absolutely without insistence. The cause is what's important and I don't need to crash the club. Often enough, the feminist I'm talking to proves cool with what I'm claiming. Big deal, yippee for me! Doesn't mean I don't retract and clarify at the first objection, and without argument, each time that happens. Because the definition of feminist that ipso facto excludes males is a legitimate definition. Because the reasons for that sentiment are valid. And because it cannot be valid for me to contest with someone dedicated to my cause, over some ego-need of mine to force my unwanted way onto her membership rolls.

I mean, that's practically obvious. You'd think.

So as a handy term to cover this sort of thing, I hasten to clarify that I am effeminist. Which indeed I am.

It's a specialized term, recent of coinage. It characterizes a man who believes in and advocates for the legal, political, and economic equality of a woman to a man. Generally, I use it in the adjective form, but it probably nouns out about the same. As language evolves, as understanding evolves, we need new terms from time to time. I made it up myself! Nice, right?

Only potential problem: the pronunciation. It's pretty much exactly homophonic to "a feminist." Thankfully, in practice it's not a problem. In my experience, it's always easy to clarify.

I'm always a feminist the first time you ask, but from there, strictly as needed, I'm about as effeminist as it gets.

Think Before You Speak, Not During.

Think before you speak, ok: preferably the day before. Think the week, month and year before - your whole life, as a general thing, think.

And after you've spoken with someone - think then! About what was said, and about whether what you mean has changed. Or feels like it needs to. And if it does, think some more. Think it through.

But don't think while you're speaking.

While you're speaking: focus on putting what you mean into words. Not on who you're saying it to, not on how different people will take it. Put what you mean into words. Work at this with focus and determination, all the while you speak. Don't distract yourself thinking up ways to soften, spin, or silence what you mean.

You know what you mean when you open your mouth to say it, right? Focus on that, and on getting it right. That's quite enough a task to set yourself, when you open your mouth. You opened it because you had something to say. Focus in, nail it - done. Then sit back ready to hear what the other's take is, and while you're listening - yes, think! Think then, about what they're saying, preferably. Not about what you intend to inject just as soon as you can finish pretend-listening and break in edgewise.

Listening thoughtfully to theirs can only help you understand your own meaning. Once you've digested what they have to say, consider your reaction. Now, your reaction can simply be thoughtful silence. It can also be a few introductory remarks noting where you agree with these points of theirs, before advancing on those other points. Your reaction can be to question, following on from their statements, seeking clarity. Exploring just where your grasps of reality overlap, and do not.

Or, your reaction may be to know precisely what you've got to say. So say it! Put what you mean into words.

Speak.

You'll have thought it all through before, surely? But if not, even better! You'll have ample time to think it all through afterward, after all. From daring to speak, you'll gain more rounded insights on everything that comes up, wherever you've participated. You make a habit of this, you'll end up knowing pretty dang well what you mean on just about anything that does come up. Better yet, you'll know how easy it is for you to correct your views, using the best parts of other people's views - wherever they improve or improve on yours. That's a thing you can see for yourself, if you ever make a habit of focusing hard and sharp on what you mean, instead of on how to pitch it, twist it, cloak it in mist. Bury it in shit, or sink it in silence. The people who worry about that kind of stuff never learn to think clearly about anything.

The people who think first and shut up learn nothing but the inside of their own brains, and the cowardice that therein dwells.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Thought of the day: Guaranteed Something

Does it ever occur to anyone that without further specification, saying "Guaranteed results" ought to be about as reassuring as saying "Guaranteed consequences"?

Friday, August 04, 2017

Darth Vader must stink horribly

I mean, think about it. Walking around in the same black leather outfit all the time - does he ever even bathe? Does he ever take it off? Can he even? Parts of it are parts of him! We know he takes the helmet off sometimes, but even there the closeness of the helmet and the rankness of dried spittle must be overpowering. The suit probably has some climate-regulating elements, but go ask an astronaut how rank their kit gets after a full day's work - and they're not striding around menacing people 24/7 in it. There's no in-film evidence that the Empire's technology has developed any B.O.-killing miracle fabrics. Look at Grand Moff Tarkin! His foul stench carries all throughout the Death Star, and his outfit is clearly far more breathable than Vader's.

It's kind of disgusting when you think about it.