Who’s ready for some poor insight?
There’s a recent trend among english speakers, especially those that consider themselves progressive, to discourage the use of qualifiers such as “I believe,” or “in my opinion,” because of the less-than-credible affect they afford their speaker. The idea is that when certain members of society make an assertion without such qualification, the listener assumes the content is accurate. So “I believe the sky is blue” is registered differently than “the sky is blue;” the social aspect of this typically understood as it being females who say the former and males who say the latter. The allegation that this perpetuates a power disparity is not entirely unfounded; people will point to data which seem to illustrate that certain people are taught to adhere to the use of qualifiers as a matter of etiquette and are subjugated socially, unconsciously, in this way. Whether or not this is true, the important aspects of this particular discussion are that the encouragement is in the wrong direction, and that the purpose this serves is at best counterproductive and at worst nefarious.1
There are two parts to this vector: 1) people are encouraged in general to stop qualifying their assertions as beliefs or opinions or perspectives in everyday speech and 2) this practice and its implicit obligation, which are foisted upon the disadvantaged parties, are accepted as preferable to their alternatives.
What do these words mean?
1) “It’s my understanding that” it’s work to include in a sentence, I understand, really; I do. “I think” that’s why people don’t care to include it in their thoughts, and “I suspect” this is underscored by the way in which the responsibility is offloaded onto the other party by the insecure. “In my experience” it’s much easier to preclude such insecurity than to address its causes, further, “research has shown” the quickest way to avoid judgment is to be become a judge. therefore “it’s not a stretch to imagine” one could easily diffuse the anxiety/deflect the dissection of their meaningless speech/thoughts by inventing ways to disparage more accurate, threatening language/thinking. “This is what I mean when I say that” discouraging the use of qualifiers is nefarious:
it prioritizes brevity over accuracy in language and it phrases the discourse in such a way as to brand as progress (the appearance of accuracy) over (actual accuracy).2
2) People in this way imply that their beliefs, opinions, and perspectives are not those things, that they are facts, and that it is the responsibility of others to shape their behavior accordingly.3 Never mind for now that the former hasn’t been true for anyone in the literal history of human beings, ever; imagine the thought process (if there is one) of someone with that frame of mind: not only are their particular beliefs unquestionable at this point, but even though they inevitably/invariably came to these conclusions through belief in someone else’s profferance, the responsibility is yours to change your behavior so that it meshes with their unconsciousness. I use those terms specifically because this type of discourse invariably/inevitably reduces to axiomatic some belief rather than argument or assertion or deduction or... While you could say that a certain mindset would counter that there’s no real difference between axioms/maxims/beliefs/assertions/deductions, I would respond that that would be true for everyone except for the mindset that is trying to tell you now that theirs are the objectively correct ones. Does that make sense?
The concise point here being that accuracy and precision are the products of arduous labor, and anyone who contradicts that, either through their beliefs or through their behavior, is likely paying the price in a (similarly) unconscious fashion elsewhere.4 While there is nothing wrong with this in and of itself, the consequence of this behavior is always of a certain persuasion: consumption. An individual who purports to be objective, as the avoidance of qualifiers implies, invariably faces the conclusion that they themselves have nothing to contribute, their insight is (ironically enough) limited to qualifying statements of others’ work. The practical implication of this is irrelevancy- not irrelevant, but- the condition of being irrelevant. By sequestering one’s thoughts within the realm of the “already known,” a person’s opportunities for growth/active participation in society disappear. Never mind that most of these included beliefs are incompatible with one another, the fact that this irrelevancy is likely completely by someone else’s design is lost upon these people in their “objectivity;” the one thing that precludes this lack is the blind spot to their own opinion bias.
Of course everyone’s entitled to their own opinions5 and etc, however, everyone is not entitled to shape the opinions of others. Whatever synthesis you’d like to say goes into the forming of an idea within a person’s skull, that ceases to be relevant the moment they (exercise their communication organ and) put their opinion into the open air. Whatever happens out there is up to strength of the belief itself; you’re still welcome to believe it, but are you able after you’ve seen it for what it is? For what other people see it as? The responsibility is yours to make sure it can survive without your constant internal reassurance, have you done your job? If not you’d better go back to school because it is not up to the rest of the adults to have to keep an eye out for
1It’s considered proper to have roughly a 1:1 ratio between paragraphs and footnotes. The question is, whom do the rules benefit? [Ed: Certainly not me]
2If you can’t see why this is awful spend literally any time at all listening to someone talk about whatever inane thing it is that they like and NB the meaningless descriptors: “intense, passionate, hard, loud, trippy, wild, unique, energetic, soulful, artistic, musical, frantic, sparse, angular, jazzy” all of which in this context are synonyms for “good,” which is itself code for “I like it,” a phrase which naturally begs the question “why?” That this question will always go unanswered is the point. If you can’t see why this is BAD for humanity consider that (the appearance of x) is not the same as ( x ), and you should (realize that you naturally) immediately distrust someone who encourages you that (what is) is exactly as (what appears).
3Colloquially these people are known as “assholes,” so, if that sentence describes you or someone you know, well, now you know.
4There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This means that the costs of production are always paid, even though they need not be material prices.
5There’s an implication here and you probably sensed it, but, I wanted to state it clearly in case my language was vague enough to be misconstrued: saying that you believe something is meaningless without something else to back it up; the responsibility is therefore on the speaker to follow “i believe” with some variation of “because,” eventually.
I'm the type of guy who considers "Gorgon" a compliment
I have always found honesty to be an overrated1 virtue, and i’ll try to explain why I think so. My beliefs include close variations of the following premises:
1)People’s capacity for understanding the universe/reality is finite;
2)The nature of the universe/reality is infinite;
3) People, consciously or unconsciously, do what they think/feel is “right;”
meaning what they think is “best” or “most favorable,” or “makes sense” to/ for themselves, even if their cognitive reasons for doing so don’t belie this tendency.
I invite any and all arguments to the contrary of any of those premises, which I should hope i can defend with some small measure of competence, though i realize they are all articles of faith which betray my personal feelings, backed up afterwards by available language; this is the point. In order for a person to both maintain sanity (more on that later) and remain sincere in dealing with human beings on matters of opinion, a compromise has to be made somewhere in the formula. It is my assertion that this is true for everyone and that the aforementioned compromise is most often within the dimensions of “honesty,” or how accurately people express their sincerest beliefs. It is further my contention that those proponents of “honesty” are signaling, consciously or unconsciously, that they cannot be trusted to deliver sincere accounts of reality but, rather, fictitious ones. What does this mean?
This means that people decide what they want to be true and believe that due to a plethora of material reasons which preclude external expressions of “honesty.” Such a tendency wouldn’t be a bad thing if not for the practically universally-accepted maxim that honesty is virtue, naturally implying that dishonesty is a vice. This dichotomy imposes the burden of having to defer to the aggressor’s perspective on the passive member in communication; the trick to something like honesty is that in this way it presents itself as an obligation, ie when someone asks what you’ve been doing, you’re obligated to disclose personal information, ceding your right to privacy. Often with these situations the case is that the concerned party will exhaust your knowledge (“so then how did that happen?”) and then fill in the blanks with whatever they believe is true. Whose perspective is more or less fictitious? More to the point, which perspective is more harmful, an openly fictitious one or a fictitious one that believes itself to be true?
If i were in the midst of a conversation, i would say that whoever feels less confident in the power of their perspective would be forced to concede their reality to the other person. While i’m normally in favor of this, when it is forced by the empowered speaker over their peers the accurate description is bullying, something for which I have zero tolerance. Example: in a university setting, a professor may state their political leanings and then implore the class to test the integrity of their beliefs through argument, however, implicit to the system is that the professor defines success and failure, therefore the student who is not motivated by their passions for politics or argument realizes that the smart battle to fight is on the exam, not here. So the discussion, purporting to be open intellectually and free of bias, is held between like-minded members of a single faction and consists of them circuitously congratulating each other on their beliefs. Dissent is precluded before it can be consciously registered and everyone involved is left with the impression that they learned something. In truth, they would have learned more about themselves and the things they think they believe if they had even a straw man to contend with. And these are the people who are explicitly in pursuit of knowledge.
It should be obvious now that something like “what the majority believes” is the definition of sanity. To use the university example again: a student who doesn’t believe, say, that Republicans are liars, has now been discouraged from voicing their beliefs because they’re contrary to what they’re being told is impartially true. In order to reconcile themselves with this, their opportunities are 1) believe what you’re told because you’re told so, or 2) don’t believe it but say you do. Is it a coincidence that zero of those choices are honest? If you disagree with or have a problem with this thinking, please consider exchanging words with me, because i’ll give it to you
1I think that “overrated” is the indeed best word to describe the way in which honesty is treated: nearly everybody will cognitively tout its virtues but literally nobody can seem to afford it with much reliability.
Firstly, as (ostensibly) an adult, I’m writing this because when everyone unilaterally hates something, the stench is overwhelming.1
Secondly, what is bullying? Don’t tell me how you feel about it or your experience with it, tell me what it is. My own hypothesis is that bullying is the coercion of the powerless by the empowered. NB that I didn’t say “coercion of the powerless by the powerful,” because that describes society (and the moment i describe society as a bunch of “bullies” my font automatically changes to comic sans which plays heck with the code), so indulge me in my pretentious vernacular; empowered describes external power being wielded by an individual whereas powerful refers to a quality of the individual themselves,2 which is why I suspect people have zero tolerance for government intervention but infinite patience towards the sweetly invasive gaze of a corporate conglomerate. Think about what this means: both entities are encroaching into your life. The former you understand to derive power from its subjects (citizens grant government legitimacy, sovereignty) and the latter you unconsciously register as having power over them (ie corporate interests define citizens’ quality of life). So the government is a bully who must either be reported or challenged for its abuse of power, but no such recourse exists for a corporation, whose power, by virtue of its actual existence, precludes any such action against it.3
That those conclusions terrify you, and they absolutely should, is the point. As an example, preferred logic in the US is that schoolchildren “report bullying” to an adult and let them solve the problem. Putting aside that adults typically are terrible at solving problems and even worse at empathizing with children, this policy sends the message that the arbiters of interpersonal conflict are the authorities and that for every problem there is an authority to which one can appeal. Whether or not you want to say this is beneficial for the victims or the bullies themselves is irrelevant; i posit that subjecting children to this model of socialization is, at best, the same because it internalizes their reliance on greater authority; they are taught to become victims on the inside. Of course i’m not saying that teachers turn a blind eye towards the harassment of their students; my contention in this regard is that teachers should be present enough that they can observe the conduct of their class to such a degree that they can prevent “bullying” should they witness it, without the need to discharge their anxiety/responsibility onto children. I shouldn’t have to also point out that adults solving children’s problems is exactly opposite the purpose of school…
The trick is that it’s considered “progressive” to say that bullying should be reported and half the audience will think i’m a hickory nut for telling kids to deal with it themselves. “Isn’t that blaming the victim?” If you accept 1) that environment influences behavior, and 2) that the people in question are minors and therefore subject to the whims of those creating their environment more wholly than adults, then the real victim is revealed to be the bully, who lacks the necessary skills to communicate acceptably (and thus must act antisocially). The original victim of the bully is merely collateral damage of the bully’s victimization by the system, which underscores the problem with that perspective: it doesn’t trust children to be able to solve their problems, it treats them as objects, as victims. The widespread media backlash against bullying is falsely progressive; it is a trick designed to get children (and their parents, the children posing as adults) to accept submission to a greater authority, a larger bully, by framing the narrative as a struggle against a smaller one. “Don’t worry, the school will take care of those meanies. Now put on your uniform and get back to work.”4
Don’t let my tone fool you into thinking i’m anti-authority or that i’m homeschooling my children in conjunction with Associate Professor J. Christ; the entire purpose of this train of thought is to get teachers to accept some responsibility for their wards, (children, of whom it is not hyperbole to say are) the future. Shouldn’t the adults in charge of their education act like it? You may retort that my unkind words and deftly-executed sentences belie that i myself am acting coercively, to which i respond that that thought5 in and of itself is why you will always be a victim to some form of
1What stench? Please accept this in the spirit in which it is offered: people are full of shit, literally, myself included. Under enough pressure, it finds a way to come out. The natural orifice through which waste is typically eliminated used to be located in the posterior region (i believe the era was prehistory) though in modern times it happens orally more often than not, as anyone will be glad to illustrate for you.
2Incidentally, “empowerment” is always something you should watch out for: when a person or group is “empowered” the understood meaning is that they are in possession of some greater power, which implies that such a thing is 1) temporary; 2) external; 3a) an object 3b) to be used, as opposed to, again, a quality of being. None of those describe actual power, you can be sure.
3This is why no matter how many people hate Wal*Mart, it will profit, yet a scandal behind the scenes at the governor’s mansion can ruin lives. This is true about any such corporation: legally, they are defined as people, but the responsibility (and thus consequences) for their actions is dispersed through a variety of channels, leading to some questionable behavior, and that is the nicest way that thought can be phrased.
4What if you don’t think that your child needs to be taught that boys wear pants and girls wear dresses? You see the results; they can’t fight back against the school’s authority, it has been empowered to coerce both them and you. “so the children aren’t distracted.”
Nevermind that dehumanization is the exact point of uniforms/uniformity. The next question that follows should be “what happens when the authority interprets something harmless as bullying?” The child becomes a victim, except instead of being at the mercy of another kid they’re at the feet of some psycho with an education degree and a caffeine habit. “I would never have made it through undergrad without it!”
I’m not shocked.
5The act of defining something as though that’s enough impetus to affect it is a symptom of impotence: you realize that this coercion is beyond your ability to control, so you expend words that are more for yourself than others (you may also say that i do this), you appeal to some authority you assume applies to us both. How do you imagine that tendency will work out for your kids, the way it worked out for you?
The date is 4 December 20141. Can we talk about race?
No, no, I get it; my intent isn’t to make you uncomfortable, it’s just that i hear different things from person to person:
“oh, I don’t see race;”
“That was so long ago, haven’t we moved passed it?”;
“why, i love those people!”;
“i believe all people are equal;”
“Race is a social construct; its supposed physiological factors are negligible compared to the myriad social implications which stem from implicit belief in said construction.”
My, what a bright and promising bunch you are. And so forthcoming! Now then, let’s scrutinize your ideas so that the class can see what you really mean.
“I don’t see race”
So, what you’re saying is, you’re white? How is that working out for you? I’m just kidding, not about knowing that you’re white, but about asking you about it. You can’t tell me, because you don’t know, all you know is what’s normal, which is you. Was any of that inaccurate?
So how did I know you’re white?
I know because there is exactly one group of people who can afford not to notice something, and it’s those who identify as possessing that something; that’s exactly how power works; that’s exactly how being normal works. So if normal = enjoying all the rights offered by society, than the people with those rights would, if they chose to ignore the factors which determined who has those rights, be blinded to the undue suffering of those without. When phrased that way it doesn’t sound so progressive, does it?2
The quality of whiteness is so pervasive in American culture that it is functionally invisible to those who possess it despite being a fundamental aspect of life for everyone; this normalizes “being white” and alienates every other “racial” category. So if you don’t see race, it’s not necessarily your fault, but implying that such a thing doesn’t exist or doesn’t effect you simply because you can’t see it is, well, stupid.
And you’re no dummy, are you?
“Haven’t we moved passed it?”
Here’s a mundane example: It’s common knowledge that “you shouldn’t put incendiary things on Facebook” for fear that your current/future employers may see it and decide to treat you unfavorably, professionally, purely for having disagreed, politically, with their own views (which you may recognize as being explicitly illegal in practice, but implicitly regarded as a common occurrence. Funny how that works.).
The whole point is that Facebook itself is allegedly a platform for sharing thoughts, “social media,” yet just like that a vague system of hypothetical financial authority has policed self-expression and the sharing of ideas between people.
“so what does that have to do with race?”
Race is a topic, an idea, that people disagree about and some are obviously uncomfortable with, duh, the only people who aren’t in disagreement about race and racism are corporations.3 What does that tell you?
The people who would benefit from examining the roles race and racism (or any other unpopular topics) play in America lack the ability to do so without being vilified by the system that claims to endorse 1) sharing ideas; 2) diversity; 3) equality; 4) merit; 5) inclusion; 6) opportunity.
Further, If you also need me to explain the privilege of the majority to you, let me instead say: you have it and you’ll be much happier if you don’t ask questions, but who told you you deserve to be happy?
“i love those people”
Several things jump out at me about that statement, here are two:
the topic is race, but you’re talking about yourself. I can imagine that this is how you approach other social issues, which probably is why you think your feelings are relevant even when they’re neither solicited nor cogent.
“those people,” meaning who exactly? Don’t be misled by the use of the word “people,” grouping individuals together by a single, superficial quality is the first step towards dehumanization. If you don’t believe me, diagram the sentence.
I/ love /those /people.
subject/ verb /adjective /direct object.
As in, the group of people in question are merely objects through which the subject interprets feelings. I hope it doesn’t require explanation as to why thinking this way would make those people resent you, but in case it does: this thinking betrays the speaker’s idea that the people in question are not individuals, humans, but rather faceless parts of an easily-quantifiable entity. In other words, you “love those people” only inasmuch as they love you.
“But they don’t even know me!”
“ I believe in the equality of all people”
Frankly, I don’t think you would say that if it were true. What I mean by this is if you really believed in the equality of people, you would have said “All people are equal,” and then, hopefully, supported it with an argument, in which case it would have been a thought, not a belief. Instead what happened was you qualified your point of view as having a base in nothing substantial, which, incidentally, illustrates the vast difference between passive and active involvement: “I think all people are equal” forces you to work towards that being true, even if the work is limited to your arguments about it; “i believe all people are equal” is what you politely say when you don’t care to expend any (more) effort on whether or not it’s applicable to reality. Fun fact: when your action is limited to believing, you aren’t helping anyone AND when you mention your beliefs as though they should mean something to someone other than you, you make people hate the cause you believe in, which hurts it. So, is it worth it?
“Race is a social construct; its supposed physiological factors are negligible compared to the myriad social implications which stem from belief in said construction.”
FANTASTIC! Too bad the only way to get those people to even acknowledge such a thing is to start a
1If you live in North America you’re probably aware that the news industry has recently fixated on stories of racial violence; the nature of these sordid events is not my concern as i have no actual information, only the narratives that said media supplies, to evaluate them. What is my concern is how these narratives are proliferating and what their commodification says about their consumers, myself included. This is the only positive that will come from media scrutiny, I promise.
If you don’t live in North America, well, I hope that whatever aspects of our culture reach you give you an uncannily accurate view of what life is like over here, because unconscious obfuscation from the inside is the norm….
2A useful analogy would be gender, as in “oh, i don’t see gender.” Really? Because the fact that every person you approach with romantic intentions happens to be of a certain gender supports the idea that you can tell what gender they are assigned from a mile away, and, shockingly, you always use the correct pronouns when referencing such people. So even though you “don’t see” gender your actions happen to coincide perfectly with a conservative, “normal” definition of what gender is.
3NB when corporations aren’t fighting each other, they’re fighting you, and that’s a fight you won’t win. Bet on it. They’re on whichever side will produce the least-expensive labor costs and if you disagree with them, you don’t have to work there. Oh, but that’s the point, you don’t disagree with them, “We’ve moved passed it.”
Was there ever a stranger relationship than the one American men have with powerful women?
After a hectic first week of logo-fisting, I thought it’d be a refreshing change of pace to put something on my knuckles (and my brain) that wasn’t so heavy on the sentence structure and socio-political undertones. Instead, today i’m going to use anecdotal evidence to examine western culture’s fetishization of women and the terrifying consequences this has on us as not only as citizens, but as people.
Whether or not this is done consciously, the first thing a person does with any question is address its assumptions. What do the adjectives imply about their respective nouns? Some would say that the relationship is strange because American men aren’t used to encountering powerful women1; others would, probably just as loudly, argue that it is so because American men don’t have any power themselves and are thus threatened; still another person might say that the structure of the query reveals inherent bias in the way it implies that a relationship is the possession of the man and that a more objective diction might be, “Why is it that the relationship between powerful women and American men is so unique?”
Isolate the variable. Why are relationships between men and women in America different than anywhere else?2
Only in America has the act of civil union (the legal forming of two [or more] people into one entity; “marriage”) been inexorably linked to the feeling of romantic love. Consider for a moment: one of these is a political act, the other a spiritual/philosophical/sexual/personal predilection. What purpose is served by combining the two?3
Some will observe that by linking the unconscious feelings of love with a given political position (sexual normalcy), a citizenry becomes primed to be the ultimate nationalists whose sexuality is defined as what is best for the country (often at the expense of themselves). In linking sexual behavior with politics implicitly in this way, normal or “good” behavior becomes less a matter of choice/preference and more a matter of obligation. The reverse of this is, of course, that non-traditional expressions of sexuality are seen as “bad,” regardless of what the haters tell themselves the reason really is.4
Imagine you’re just a normal person. What does that even mean? There are a million facets of that question worth considering (and just as many correct, if incomplete, answers) but only one is important in this paragraph right now: normal is different for everyone except in the fact that it’s based on a set of assumptions that the individual possesses both about the universe and about themselves.
So, in short, imagine you’re just you. For whatever reason a person has the beliefs that they have, those are the ones they have and challenging them is work for everyone involved; that’s pretty much the basis of the field of sociology.You have ideas that have been forming in your brain for so long that you don’t know where they came from, they are your universe, so powerful are they that they’ll tell you what to feel and, in all likelihood, what to think. This isn’t to say that you’ll necessarily do as they say, but you’ll feel it more intrinsically than anything i could ever try to convince you of. And speaking of being convinced of things, there’s no better way to demonstrate and solidify the power of something than by convincing people that it is “normal.”5
Circle back: a “normal” sexuality, in America, is defined by obligation, which is probably why so many men feel powerless in a society that non-males claim is a patriarchy. Normalcy is power, but as long as it is someone else who defines it, all you can do is hope to meet the conditions it requires; you can not wield this power, you can only be subjected to it, and it doesn’t stop at men.
Who is the normal woman? the normal woman is one who fulfills all of the obligations set forth by her society. Though you and i surely both have assumptions about what that entails, the purpose of this is that the system (politics) obliges its citizenry to be “normal,” unconsciously, and as a result of this, people are pushed into templates for (what the state requires). The consequence of this is twofold: 1) unconscious beliefs are validated by the tautology of material appearances, and 2) citizens mistake facsimiles (in this case, of power) for the real thing.
You can see how, given these conditions, misdirection is not only easy, but imminent. In such a world, who ya gonna call?6
1Part of me wanted to phrase that “women in positions of power,” what does this unconscious feeling tell you? I could certainly think up justifications for grammatical precision or some such, or the paranoid in me could theorize that the structure of language in my part of the world is such that women are viewed passively in relation to the power they wield, whereas for a man the unconscious default would be “powerful men.” see also, action figures versus dolls.
2What you think the answer to this question is says a lot about you; one can surmise that powerful women are (by virtue of motherhood and regardless of whether or not such a culture is a “patriarchy”) a constant across cultures, whereas being “american” is not.
3As of this writing, depending on where you reside, who you’re allowed to legally “wed” may depend entirely on which gender you were determined at birth. Proponents of “equality” in this fashion, it’s my (admittedly cynical) suspicion, are given the opportunity to be vocal about their support for equal access to homosexual civil unions/marriage for the purpose of getting them to accept sexual civil unions as normal/ideal.. Or doesn’t equality consider asexuals (or bisexuals, for that matter)?
4When i’m inclined to be generous about human nature i suspect that this phenomenon is at the core of various political disagreements, as it can apply to anyone. If i’ve been conditioned to believe that a citizen’s responsibility is x, it’s not a stretch of imagination to think that i could therefore believe that 1) by my having done x i am a good citizen and 2) the people petitioning for the right to not have x responsibility are not only challenging my notion of right and wrong but fighting for the state to support their being wrong. I’m not saying i believe in this personally, but if i did, you can probably bet i’d say so as loudly and as persuasively as i could, and if words failed me (or more likely if i failed them, as i so often do) i’d probably also resort to antisocial behavior in order to express these feelings. Now take a look at literally any situation in which one party is obviously against something reasonable but for no concrete reason other than the hate on their faces (or if they’re not a faced entity, you can usually see it come through in their words) and tell me that doesn’t perfectly explain their destructive, divisive, mean conduct.
5This is how the language of “free speech” is policed: if you say that people are entitled to believe whatever they want, but then classify some beliefs as abnormal (stupid, ignorant, bad, whatever) and others as their positive opposite, people will take those meanings and enforce them on themselves. whether or not x thoughts actually are good or bad is mostly irrelevant, what is now relevant is how the conversation is structured based on the relationship to what is “normal.”
if you follow that normalcy=power and that people are taught to feel entitled to “normalcy,” suddenly the conduct of a lot of people makes more sense.
6Having promised an anecdote, please appreciate the following:
After being arrested, topless, at 3:30 AM on the fourth of July, I sat handcuffed to a bench in Magistrate (central booking), awaiting my chance to join one of several long lines of suspected criminals in which i would wait to be searched, groped, and lightly interrogated by whichever of the five or so officers operated at the opposite end of said line. Barely visible from my bench was one officer performing this duty, an attractive-looking brunette woman. From far away, obviously, i couldn’t tell particularly how attractive, but suffice it to say that male officers are rarely the attractive ones you see in fiction (and hope for in real life) and in such a place i was willing to look for solace on any level, even a superficial one. So the lone female officer was attractive to me, at 3:30 on the fourth of July, handcuffed to a bench, and i hoped the line i joined ended in her clutches.
Eventually it did, and faced with the sudden pressure of a fantastical situation becoming real, my mind did what seemed normal in the presence of a beautiful woman: it completely abandoned me. Having been searched. and groped, i faced the light interrogation as she went through my belongings and logged in my possessions. Verbally listing each one as she got to it, when finally she reached and read the contents of my purse back to me, “seventeen cents,” so perfunctorily in contrast with all the misguided emotions i had placed on her, all i could think to say, as menacingly as possible, was “i better get that all back” while looking her right in the eye. She returned my stare for a brief second and then broke into a smile followed by laughter. I smiled too.
What defines religion, or, perhaps more to the point, what defines a person’s beliefs as religious?
My clearest understanding of religion (I’m told it’s somewhat subjective) is that it is a basic set of beliefs about the nature of reality and humans’ place in it, which logically influences the way a person lives their life, if they indeed have the ability to influence it (some beliefs preclude this). After some amount of education it has further been my conclusion that this concept can, with some reliability, be swapped with ethics, morals, or philosophy, as they are all defined by their faith in an underlying belief
[ f (x)]
f= the action you take on faith
x= the idea upon which your faith is based
For example, I, personally, believe that all humans are one.
If you’re still reading after that, you’re probably a more open-minded individual than myself; Please let me elaborate:
I believe that each and every human being is equal to one person. We (that is, you, I, our friends and our enemies, in any combination or alone) are all the same, separated only by the illusion of super(arti)ficial differences and circumstances. This, insofar as I can determine, is the best approximation of what spirituality, or religion, means1. This is what I believe in the absence of anything concrete upon which to base my existence. It’s my understanding that all people, regardless of what they believe, do so for that reason as well: to glean meaning from a vast and seemingly impregnable universe through the use of their senses.
Whether or not this makes me an imbecile is debatable, and I’ll be the first to tell you what you probably already know: what you believe is only important because it influences how you act, it defines your sense of what “is.” This means, amongst other things, that when I feel the reflex to point a finger, I stop myself because I can identify ways in which I am personally guilty of whatever sin as well, and I tend to believe that the greatest sin of all is disingenuousness. This is due to the profound way the damage is dealt: to the observer, certainty of self is an endorsement for a lifestyle and to be disingenuous or otherwise hypocritical through one’s lifestyle is tantamount to teaching falsehoods as though they were truths; when the minds of children are shaped around nonsensical ideas and then sent out by their parents to fashion the world, the only world they have a chance at is one that does not exist, and they will spend the rest of their lives striving towards it, though that’s all speculation.
The importance of being able to combine and distinguish between these various concepts (ethics, morality, religion, philosophy) lies in the ability to see the ways in which they, quite interchangeably, influence their proponents’ behavior. While this may seem obvious at first, NB that when two people describe the exact same behavior in completely antithetical2 ways, you can bet 1) one of them is either wrong(a version of this could be incomplete knowledge), lying, or is taking on faith that someone who is, isn’t; 2) they’re arguing, probably passionately, about who is doing what; 3) neither one of them is accomplishing anything because their arguments (as well as their passions and energies, which are similarly finite) are for the purpose of proving that they’re right rather than the opposite-- proving that they’re wrong.
If this seems counterintuitive to you, consider that the point of argument is for one or both parties to reach understanding through their mutual communication, which means being naturally open to the possibility of new insight from other people and their perspectives; the only way to gain knowledge is to first be ignorant.
Now imagine the sort of person who argues for the purpose of proving themselves right3. Outside of doing this to either inform or entertain someone, the only possible motives are masturbation, bullying (my mental muscles are bigger than yours, now you say it), or some unspoken material gain (money, sex, identity validation). Further, the assumption that one’s thoughts can be “correct” assumes that the nature of the universe is simple enough to have understood in less than a lifetime. If you don’t think that belief is in itself based on faith then you and your spirituality need to get back in touch before you entirely lose your
1Having spent fourteen (14) years in the throes of an expensive, Roman-Catholic education and eighteen (18) years regularly attending weekly mass (and, oh, about eleven  years receiving sacraments, for those of you who want a more meaningful timeline), I think i have some perspective on the exact difference between religious faith and un/conscious disingenuity.
What I mean is that there are people who genuinely believe in (insert matter of faith here) and there are people who use (insert matter of faith here) to lie to themselves or to lie to others, for whatever reason. These distinctions are important to make for someone whose thinking, as made obvious by the previous stats, is naturally informed to some degree by the aforementioned (Roman Catholic) line of thought. I use that word “thinking” specifically because in my experience it , contrary to popular belief, hasn’t been the case that everyone who believes religiously in something metaphysical is incompetent, or drunk, or a fool. Often people of great intelligence are only able to marshal that into something appreciable by everyone else through their equally great faith- faith in what exactly, I have no idea.
2Okay, here’s a question that i hope won’t diminish me in the eyes of you readers: am i a jerk for using the word “antithetical” instead of just saying “completely different?” I considered them both, and they both convey almost the same thing; the larger question that this raises (which is one that i’d appreciate anyone’s answers to, incidentally) is what makes good writing? Ease of access? Width of knowledge?
firstname.lastname@example.org if you think that’s me, which it isn’t, but whatever, I believe we can counsel each other towards healthy spirituality and universal life, if you’re willing to try.
Disclaimer: I’m trying to avoid prefacing every entry with a disclaimer just as I’m trying to avoid having every entry be concerned with something incendiary, but that’s the nature of these things, I guess. I am against the wholesale blaming of any one party for society’s ills except in specific instances. Certainly, the rapist is to blame for the individual occasions of rape they perpetrate, and should be held fully accountable1. I argue, as I believe others have as well, that the widespread prevalence of rape and date rape in America is a societal issue; date rape is prevalent enough to warrant new preventative action on a larger scale than an individual one, however, the first and often most important step is necessarily on the individual level. No, not theirs, yours.
Date rape is a specific instance of non-consensual, unlawful sex in which the victim is incapacitated from being able to legally consent to the intercourse. Whether or not this differs from their being coerced or forced into “consenting” in any way other than semantics is debated in much the same way as is the underlying cause this disturbingly prevalent trend. To what degree is a person responsible for the society in which they live? To begin with an obvious case study: the tavern2.
Regardless of your ideas about alcohol or its consumption, or even drugs and their effects on society, what does the existence of such a place tell you? There’s a profit to be made in this business. So when you go into a place like this, you’re paying for someone else’s vision, and that’s true of any and every product you or I consume. I’m not saying bars are bad places or that they’re full of bad people; that would be ludicrous. I’m saying that they’re built and staffed by people looking to make a profit off of whatever it is that gets you to want to (verb a noun, which in this case manifests as) buy a drink. Ten-to-one you won’t like whatever they decide that is, even though you’ll absolutely protest to the contrary.
This is significant because it describes (y)our relationship with the forces that shape (y)our world. The owners of (y)our friendly neighborhood pub don’t want you to be an educated consumer, that will send you to the liquor store. They want you in whichever mindset has you thinking that your problem is one they can solve. Put another way, what does the bar offer that the store does not? The answer is the illusion of a social atmosphere. What assumption are the bar owners making about you when they center their business model on the fact that the prospect of flirtation with the preferred sex will entice consumers into paying more for less?3
From a business owner’s perspective, consider the individual’s relationship to your product and your establishment. Who drinks and why do they do it? Think hard, your future profit is directly proportional to how well you grasp and exploit the answer. Ask yourself, “why would they come to me for a drink?”4 The fact of the matter is that every social interaction in a bar is lubricated through atmosphere; people pay for an experience.
Exactly what kind of experience are you trying to sell?
I chose the example of a tavern because they’re easy targets and i’m a talentless hack, sure, but also because they’re so prevalent. I don’t need to know where you live to speculate that there’s one within walking distance of you nor do I need to look even that far to find one for myself. So the question I’m compelled to ask is, what is the appeal5? Why, if everybody can agree (and i’m not saying that they can or that they do) that this is bad, does it still pers/ex-ist? What kind of people does this establishment cater to?
I use the example of a tavern to illustrate the ways in which consent can be manufactured or precluded altogether, and also to explore the ways in which every single individual is responsible for the atmosphere they inhabit. This often unconscious process is exactly why the topic of date rape is so contentious: in the absence of something provable (ie evidence more substantial than the testimony of a single party, sober or otherwise) the only authority are one’s own senses and the only real evidence of a person’s intent is that person’s actions, which to an external entity trying to make sense of a situation (courts, police, other people), can sometimes be misconstrued6. Which leads us back to a different form of the original question: what do your actions, in this case supporting a particular social/chemical/commercial environment, mean?
You’re endorsing the sale and consumption of a product, even when the product is you. Whether or not you think this a desirable situation for you, the only possible outcome will be that you lose your autonomy. Again, my place isn’t to say whether or not this is what you want, only that this is exactly what has been happening and will continue to happen.
It breaks down like this:
1. You consent to be seen the way the establishment and its patrons want to see you when you enter the physical location, this is how environment works. You can say you’re not like everybody else in there, but who’d listen? The music is too loud for anyone to hear what you’re saying anyways. is that a coincidence?
Once in such an environment, foreign to you and controlled by professionals through the myriad ways that it is, you are forced to navigate by the establishment’s established rules.
Everyone is subject to this, but consider: the establishment doesn’t care about their products. As long as you pay for it and don’t make a mess you can toss the alcohol down the toilet for all they care, right? But that’s assuming that the product is the alcohol.
What did the ad say? I’ll wager some variation of “COME FOR THE PARTY!!!” Right, that’s not selling drinks, that’s selling people7.
And here you are, trying to buy, being sold, wondering why everybody here treats you like less than a human. “look how they were dancing/what they were wearing, of course it was consensual!”
That’s why when asked about my sexual orientation, the box I check says
1Not that it should matter, but the author of this entry is a survivor/was once a victim of sexual assault. Experience doesn’t necessitate insight (and the offending party wasn’t too keen on doing so,either), however this perspective is one that is, perhaps unconsciously, against the ideas of “victim blaming” or “rape apologia.” These red herring are worth considering merely for the insight they can yield about their purveyors, despicable though they assuredly must be. And before you ask, no, alcohol was not involved.
2 ; n.- a commercial establishment whose premises is dedicated to the sale and consumption of alcohol, synonyms: bar, speak, speakeasy, house, lounge, grill, den, hive, pub, club, nightclub, scene, venue, shack, hole, spot, place, joint, dive, saloon, water closet, mill, lodge, shop. archaic
3They’re assuming that alcohol isn’t the only product that they’re hocking. What else are you trying to buy? People. Think fast, a business that sells you the chance to encounter desirable people will never treat either of you like human beings. Why would you expect patrons to be any better? On the other hand, if you care to make the case that the tavern primarily offers the allure of a fresh, professionally mixed cocktail, i must ask: why do you drink alcohol if you obviously don’t like it? If you do like it, why do you try to put as many people and ingredients between you and it as possible?
4There’s an old saying about how a bar is just a pharmacy with limited supply. Your next question should be, exactly what symptoms/illness are they treating?
5I’ve “slept” through enough Fridays and been “sick” on enough Mondays to know that, statistically, peer pressure exists, and just because you think you don’t want to go out drinking doesn’t mean somebody can’t convince you otherwise. I also know that if given the opportunity, people will decide exactly what is and isn’t a matter of their own free will.
6 This ABSOLUTELY does not mean to say that simple miscommunication can lead to “accidental” rape; this is at best a sordid rationalization that perpetrators in such cases use to refute their role in the crime and at worst a predatory, defensive posture rapists adopt to shield themselves from the natural, horrible consequences of their actions. “Misconstrued” implies that one or both parties are operating under a set of incorrect beliefs prior to communication and this condition leads to the misinterpretation of values, ie. what “is,” particularly in cases where a person’s senses are compromised.
The difference is that when the problem is revealed as a misconstruction, there is possible direction towards change, ie people can change their behaviors if they change the underlying thoughts that drive them, which is a lot more possible than it is with “rape=bad”.
the discussion could instead go “why do all these rapists look confused or angry when they’re brought up on charges?”
7Cosmetic variations of this include “the biggest dance floors and the hottest beats,” “the wildest club on earth,” and perhaps the most revealing “ladies free all night.”
(possible trigger warning) I’m about to describe the process of suicidal thinking as vividly as my powers will allow. You may know by now whether or not you’re susceptible to these kinds of things by whether or not you’re still trudging forward. With me so far? Insofar as my own experience goes, considering killing oneself deliberately and believing doing so is a good idea are two separate things, the contents of which vary naturally and importantly. The purpose today is to examine the reasons that a person may conflate the two and thus become misguided as to the nature of their problems and their supposed solutions, as they relate to “suicidal” modes of thought.
1. Considering ending one’s own life in and of itself
For many, “suicide” is a dirty word. Whether or not ending one’s own life is a person’s intention, conversation usually follows the path of “Don’t think that way,” eventually culminating with the notion that living is better than nonliving and hope trumps despair. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this, indulge yourself for a moment in examining this train of (un)thought: when people tell you not to think about something, your cosmological alarm should start blaring. Irrespective of the value of the idea in question, thought, when cogent, is harmful only to a narcissist1. Truly, what problems (as surely one would say suicide rates are indicators of some kind of problem) are better solved by the willfully ignorant?
The concept of morality can succinctly be described as a personal system of appraising value to the universe; the only way to grasp such an idea is to try to understand the scope of the phenomena one encounters, death included. For this reason it is necessary that the stigma associated with morbidity2 be addressed, though this is naturally a difficult pill for people to swallow, even if doing so is in the interests of maintaining healthful relationships with their relatives, alive or otherwise.
Believing ending one’s own life to be the best option
Whether or not you want to die or believe you want to die but don’t really3, it can only benefit you and your survivors to have the ability to speak freely- that is, free of judgment- about your wanting to end your life4. The “ethics of suicide” is, having typed that phrase just now, something I want on my CV as soon as possible. After accomplishing something like that, i probably wouldn’t need to bother with a CV anymore anyways. You and I could discuss your beliefs openly as we do your egregious politics and my laughable religion; we could further figure out the most ethical way to go about it. You could argue that it’s not a person’s responsibility to be ethical about their suicide, to which i would respond that that unethical person is exactly the sort that shouldn’t be allowed to handle the responsibility of such a thing- eg children, minors, those not found mentally competent or legally “sane,” etc. Who decides what that is is certainly up for debate, or, it would be, if people could feel as though they could discuss the topic and actually get help for their problems, instead of labeled. I’d also argue that labels played a big role in what got them feeling suicidal in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there.
What IS both here AND there are a lot of misplaced emotions (and bodies) due to the simple fact that sometimes the only insight survivors get comes in the form of a suicide note.
Anecdote: young, smart, beautiful 17 year old “lost all hope” and attempted/committed one/numerous murders/suicides, leaving a confusing spectacle and several loose threads with which survivors will have to create a narrative, to cope.
And they ask
“what could have caused this?”
leaving no stone unturned to compensate for having failed to ask the the one person that could yield understanding: the deceased. And what is the result?
“don’t blame yourself, there’s nothing you could have done.”
“some people are beyond help”
“we’ll never get an answer”5
You had your chance for an answer when the person was alive, but evidently they felt that they couldn’t broach the topic with you6.
as a result of this, what questions are conspicuously avoided?
“why did this person feel that death was better than living?”
“why, if s/he was observably happy, did s/he elect to do this?”
“what did/does this say about our relationship/environment/society that i/we only found out after it was too late?”
“what does this say about our supposed happiness?”
"What can I do so these same conditions don't apply to someone else?"
That last one is important because often times the narrative that people will craft to insulate themselves from the chill of the grave is one of the form of “I am alive, they are not, we are different.”
Which is, of course, a lie—as evidenced by the fact that you find the grave chilling at all.
There is exactly one point to my having written all this, and it is this: every problem created within the mind can similarly be solved7. Your mind, whether or not you believe it, was crafted with input from humans from all over space and time, many of whom have lived and all of whom will die. To think that your situation is uniquely, completely hopeless, even if that is true, is a powerful assumption for any person to make and is therefore a decision that, frankly, some cannot afford to face without help from others. This doesn’t make them weak, or stupid, it makes them human, and while i’ve certainly been called otherwise i’ll usually default into that demo sooner or later, too. Since every piece of literature i’ve ever seen on the topic pretty much boils down to “call someone else,” which is terrible advice, let me say that you in the throes of hopelessness are welcome to call me8
1If a narcissist is defined as one who protects identity above all else, and a person has established themselves on the idea that their life is important, that they are important (this is perhaps what it means when people say that some degree of narcissism is good, healthful), than this train of thinking is one that cannot occur to such a person, and therefore must not be considered/validated by anyone else. The question this raises is, of course, who decides what makes a thought cogent? You’re welcome to send in your answers, but mine is: YOU AH
2Logically, the fear of death is not equivalent to death itself, though human beings’ biological predilection towards fearing death my make it seem insurmountable.
3Though the author has previously considered the suicidal solution to the problems of life, and, for better or worse, eventually chose one over the other (i’ll leave you to speculate as to which), I disagree with the idea that suicide is necessarily a matter of fortitude, rather, as (American) people say, “it’s their choice.”
4In this situation, my anecdotal experience has been to go with something along the lines of. “you’re suicidal? ...can you give me, like, a week? to get some closure with you/my affairs in order?”
5Which, incidentally, are all variations of what was said previously, that the cause was a deficit in strength, in the inability to deal with the trials of life, only applied retroactively to the dead in ways that would seem callous to the alive. Coincidence?
6Before you say i’m throwing blame around irresponsibly, this isn’t blame; i don’t care what it is about you that makes your loved ones want to kill themselves, my point in saying this is to show that you can believe what you want about the deceased, they can’t defend themselves. Whether you say they’re weak for doing it or that it was a senseless tragedy, you can’t expect them or their survivors to come to you with an actual problem when you treat the problem like a disease (see also: addiction).
7 you may say things like “not all problems are internal”
to which i would say: if you think a problem you have is external, you’re assessing the situation incorrectly. if a person’s problem is truly external, ie- “glass ceiling keeps me down” rather than “i hate that there’s a glass ceiling keeping me down”, then their solution is also external: work towards change. Change your behavior and your mind will likely follow suit.
email notifications go right to my phone and i’m more likely to respond to something in text than in audio, and i will do everything in my limited capability to point you to the resources you need to reach the state of mind you desire, regardless of what that entails.
Right off the bat, okay, everybody does drugs. Even you. Some of them keep you alive while others can kill you. Some have killed your friends and some have saved your elderly mothers’ puppies. Just like hammers; just like guns; just like love! The thing that makes the difference in the situation is the individual. How you use the tool is what’s important1, the tool is incidental. In this case, the tool could very well be the human body. How you use it is what’s important! But reflection needs to go deeper. What drugs have you done today? There’s the obvious; oxygen, hydrogen, sodium, fat. For the connoisseurs out there there’s Monosodium glutamate (“Top Ramen” on the streets) and, for the more proactive members of the community, there exists adrenaline.
You and I can both pretend that we have no knowledge of these dark chemical transactions, which leads me to my favorite substance of all- endorphins! These naturally occurring neuropeptides(sic) are present in all humans and some other mammals and exist for the purpose of blocking pain. Whether or not you want to continue with the line of thinking that drugs can be classified into “good” and “bad” categories, you should consider that the cessation of pain is something that only a real cad would get upset at someone for pursuing. In fact, I’d argue that we have an entire multi-billion-dollar industry devoted to exactly that goal, which is noteworthy because of the historically -numerous- practices which have been chaperoned from taboo to conventional simply by means of such branding/sponsorship. Our purpose today is to examine the ways in which we all engage in drug use and to use this insight to reframe the way we think about these practices into something more productive.
If the connection can be made that natural painkillers (endorphins) are “good” drugs insofar as the purpose they serve is to help people function in society without the distraction of feeling pained, what further consideration is necessary to extend the title of “good” to other such drugs? Indeed, the working definition for addiction describes the point at which a drug user’s relationship with the drug in question transcends their ability to control their need2. The purpose of this is not to assign blame, rather, it’s to encourage you to think for a moment that the question “why do you do drugs?” is counter-intuitive; it doesn’t make sense. The form should be “since it is the fact that you and i do drugs, why?” If the answer is to counter or treat some underlying malady, as it most often is in the case of addiction3 and treatment, then vilifying the user serves only to hinder recovery (defined as becoming a productive member of society again). Even if you have no sympathy for the addict or their situation, hindering their recovery is counterproductive to your own society’s health. Unless you enjoy bums, just, everywhere. Street corners, sidewalks, people’s front lawns; I’ve been to Austin.
That’s in the case of “good” drugs and the people who are addicted to them. In the dubious instances of “bad” drugs and their users, it is necessary to ask: why are these objects branded this way?4 What other objects do we, as humans, brand in this fashion? A person could conceivably say, “this hammer is bad,” where bad might mean inefficient or unwieldy, but these aren’t the same connotations a “bad” drug has. Would you be able to tell a good drug from a bad one, with your limited expertise?
The purpose of the previous line of questioning is to show that a clear (and often binary) system of categorizing things is often too simplistic to account for the subtleties of real life, which brings us back to those endorphins we were talking about earlier. The feelings and thoughts someone experiences are the result of a number of different factors that influence the brain simultaneously; drugs are merely tools for achieving the cranial conditions a person desires more readily. This pursuit of happiness naturally manifests in many different ways, the most common of which are the ways in which we, as people, allow the incredulous parts of our brains to be circumvented by emotional involvement in meaningless stimuli. What this means is that you prefer to feel rather than to think5. If you don’t think pursuing a pleasantly intense feeling (emotion) instead of the cold turkey-truth (that your emotion is misplaced or altogether inappropriate, a result of ignorance) is the same as taking a pill so your soul stops aching, you’re incorrectly assessing yourself and others. I was about to say “i hope it feels good,” but i know it feels good; that’s why you’re doing it. But you’re certainly not like those junkies on the street, right?6
I am, absolutely a
1The nature of the dialogue is something like this: “good” drugs are medicine, “bad” drugs are illegal (or used illegally). Who makes these distinctions?
2The next step in this train of thought is: that means I’m addicted to something. Yes, you most certainly are. The real question is which are the addictions that can be treated versus ones that can only be managed successfully?
3Insert something about the nature of addiction and recovery here?
4The legal definition is based, allegedly, on the medicinal efficacy of the substance in question. This criteria in and of itself is not necessarily problematic; the problems arise when laypeople take the advice of medical professionals as objective rather than practical. This is what it means when we say that doctors and lawyers “practice” medicine and law. Though they have dedicated their livelihoods to the field, their expertise is not towards a science but in the service of an ever-evolving art.
5Studies show that the feeling of anger triggers the same part of the human brain as does blowing a fat rail of cocaine. Society encourages you to emotionally invest in rather than to rationally consider its trappings; popular media knows you don’t want to think about your involvement in global politics as much as you want to hate some dictator/terrorist/corporation for theirs; the money is to be made in focusing your emotion on someone else’s story. This extends to literally everything you feel strongly about but don’t fully understand (re: everything) and is primarily the way in which language is corrupted and people are controlled.
6sidebar: you know how certain people who fancy themselves artists will say that they don’t do drugs in pursuit of their art “because then it’s not you making it, it’s the drugs”? Two observations about these people: 1)they never extend their definition to mainstream drugs like beer, or chocolate, or coffee, which turns “I don’t do drugs” into “i don’t do unpopular drugs,” which is noticeably not a hip thing to say; 2) they place their identity as an artist before the production of the art. This is nefarious not only because they’ll all be quick to tell you what nonconformists they are whilst espousing some of the most conservative of beliefs, but also because it demonstrates that their primary concern is not with the work, but with themselves.
I don’t envy feminists any more than I envy English speakers, and, to tell you the truth, I pity those poor saps (myself included, but more on that later).
I like to think that what would lead some to mistake me for a feminist is that-and note my words very carefully- I’m willing to work towards what’s best for women (this is a fraction of working towards what’s best for EVERYONE). I believe that what most people are being encouraged to identify as feminist to be the exact opposite of that: when a person insists on branding themselves in such a way, it is most often in the service of their ego rather than being about achieving anything important, eg people use feminism as an accessory to talk about themselves. I hesitate to say this because, naturally, someone completely misguided who nevertheless considers themselves educated and well-read will interpret my words to be an attack on their personal beliefs, and if you believe you’re feminist then you’re right. What you’re doing is hurting women; please desist. One only needs to examine the language of feminism for proof1. Gender is a social construct, the important thing to take away being that what people often perceive as natural fact is, in fact, a fabrication, a narrative, designed to serve somebody’s interests. You may also recognize that as the plot to the biggest action movie of the previous millennium.
(Further, if I were to get into the sisyphean endeavor of branding The Matrix of thoughts and emotions I refer to as my “philosophy,” in the service of the people I’m attempting to reach and that same matrix I would call myself a Womanist, which is another clue that implicit to something like feminism is precisely the same model of imperialist and ethnocentric perspective that chauvinism embodies, just branded for Women Like Me. You? You can do with that what you’d like, but you can’t beat the house.)
The trick is an appeal to a desire for the universe to make sense, which is one that we all possess: “me versus the world,” “femininity versus the [masculine] system,” it’s why pushing for something like [more for me (who happens to be X)] will never amount to anything more than a lot of cantankerous, divisive behavior.2
Let me take a moment to make clear that, though I will certainly admit to being misguided and ignorant, it is not my wish to harm or cause harm to anyone through my words. I realize that some may think me brutish for portraying feminists or feminism in a negative fashion while the world is, truly, rife with worse scourges than the semantics of this particular branch of intellectualism. My issue with popular feminism is that, while I sincerely believe that women are categorically mistreated by society, I think that society itself manipulates language, and therefore people, for the purposes of fighting change, and modern feminism is a symptom of this defense.3
I’d be willing to bet money that there’s no such feminist who will also identify as an imperialist, however the two are inexorably linked. Consider it, it applies to me just as much as it does to you4. Moreover, if one were to agree that a decidedly masculine society cannot be trusted to steward feminine (or any minority) interests equally alongside masculine ones (if one were also to decide that the two are separate, as feminism and chauvinism would have you believe) one would also necessarily have to be wary of any supposedly-liberal ideology from which the conservative-masculine system allows participation (ie Feminism).
To be clear, feminists hurt women, and oftentimes do so whilst smiling. Not a judgment, just an...observation. That particular philosophical trajectory leads to a dead end. However, the various devices strewn about my lair remind me that i am absolutely both an imperialist and a capitalist (and possibly a narcissist), for this reason I am also a
1Here I can begin to cite sociological/philosophical authors and theories, if that’s what you desire. The idea that Gender is a construct of society rather than biology isn’t particularly new. You’re welcome to let us know in the comments how you feel about citation-heavy essays, but for right now I’ll leave the specifics out unless requested, in the interest of brevity (ha.) you can always search for phrases and read whatever sources come up.
2See also: The Occupy Movement, the Tea Party, Gay Pride; these are all conservative movements disguised as social rebellion. Put another way, when was the last time a bumper sticker convinced you (let alone someone with the power to affect social policy) to change your perspective/question your beliefs? Do you think that’s a coincidence?
3By redefining consumerism as feminism, the system (re: those in power/conservatives) legitimizes the squickier elements of society while focusing the argument away from meaningful discussion. To use a concrete example, Miley Cyrus considers herself “a big feminist,” and she has the means to make her message heard. Regardless of what you think of her, ask yourself: what does she do that registers as feminist? Why is it necessary for her capitalism/art/sexuality to represent femininity altogether? What does this mean for the feminist who isn’t wealthy, svelte, white, popular? What are the consequences of Miley Cyrus’ feminism for her coworkers? Employees? Fans?
4If you don’t care to think it through, the logic follows as such: for Apple products to remain affordable in the United States market, it’s necessary that they be made by foreign laborers who don’t have what United States laborers would describe as “basic human rights,” or “living wages.” if you’re too distracted with Apple fanaticism to see it, replace them with Coca-Cola, Nestle, or Tommy Hilfiger, if you have the stomach. Put another way, the American lifestyle is possibly only in America, because no other country can afford it.
I used that term “matrix” earlier, one many are no doubt familiar with due to the extensive calculus and trigonometry curricula employed by underpaid but overjoyed educators across the nation. Two such educators, known at the time as the Brothers Wachowski, sought to present visually the tribulations inherent in this cacophony of vectors and information and in doing so, they created The Matrix. Rehashing the entire plot goes beyond today’s scope; the premise is that humanity is being held unconscious and captive, being fed electronic stimulation from sentient machines which keep the people mentally docile for the purposes of harvesting their body heat. The plot gets going when the main character is contacted by people who claim to be aware of the true nature of reality. They offer him a choice: a red pill, which will rouse him from electronic unconsciousness, or a blue pill, which will leave him as he is. You can probably guess from the title which one he picks.1
What is the significance of this? Leaving aside considerations of free will and predetermination for now, Neo (the main character) is offered a binary choice between two opposing forces. What does the existence of a such a choice tell you? Let the first thing you consider be that the idea of a “choice” necessitates some structure greater than either option2. When you’re shopping around Wal-Mart, they don’t care which TV you buy. The salesman certainly might, but he’s just a wage slave, his 2% commission is directly proportional to your new TV’s pixel count and his pay is not commensurate with what profits he brings to the store. The system has already won by enticing (the both of) you in. The choices you are presented with are functionally identical objects with cosmetic variations. There is no authentic choice possible.3
Let your second consideration be that this is what the system wants: when presented with options, people feel as though they have a degree of autonomy. This is the purpose of the blue pill. Rather than be saddled with the immense existential burden of meaningless consumption or the hard work of truly cutting an original path, the blue pill offers the solace of knowing you made the right choice4. Not like all those sheeple, you have the wherewithal to let your purchases be guided by intel and reasoning, not some advertiser’s persuasive marketing. Of course, the blue pills will say the same thing, which would be surprising if it wasn’t exactly the point. Identical behavior (consumption) is labeled in seemingly opposing ways so that people will act in the required direction (the nearest Wal-Mart) and believe that they did this themselves. The choice becomes clear, it becomes ...not really a choice at all.5
In a similar vein, there’s enough data to suggest that people’s actions and choices can be subtly (re:entirely) influenced by things most would consider trivial, for example, the coloring of pills can mean the difference between an ineffectual OTC and the sweet, loving embrace of the placebo effect around your swollen membranes, which is hardly negligible when your entire waking life is tied to how well you slept last night.6
Circling back to the Matrix (whose sequels were aptly titled Reloaded and Revolutions, respectively) and the choice between the two states of mind, consciousness and unconsciousness, the Matrix plays out thusly (spoiler alert): the hero chooses the red pill and is whisked away to a frankly nightmarish earth whereupon he learns to become the messiah, first by using his knowledge of the artificial nature of the Matrix network to manifest supernatural powers within the simulation itself and later, by way of deus-ex-machina, manifesting those same supernatural powers in the real world at the third film’s climax. Critics felt that this was an example of the narration having painted itself into a corner and did not regard the film particularly positively, however fandom, rabid as it is, postulated that the nonsensical nature of the ending lends itself to the interpretation that the “real” world outside of the “simulated” Matrix was, in fact, another layer of the Matrix simulation, designed by the machines to attract the kinds of people who wouldn’t take the blue pill. That this theory perfectly illustrates the idea that the types of choices that a system will support are meaningless [due to their mutual requirement of a supportive system] is something I myself couldn’t have managed any better. Contained within the blue pill is the delicious assumption that, not only are your ideas the right ones -based on the totality of your focused powers, no doubt honed from years of critical thinking and informed living- but that they’re your ideas at all. It’s extremely gratifying; my favourite drug is the
1HaHA! No, if you haven’t seen the film, he (spoiler alert) picks the red pill. ) If he didn’t pick the red pill, if he chose the blue pill, there would be no plot.
2All choices work in this fashion, otherwise there are none. The options only exist because the system (whichever one that may be) can support either route. One of the unfortunate implications of this is that, when a person makes one of the readily-available binary decisions, that decision is often meaningless. There’s probably enough in that sentence to tie this to an absurdist sentiment, but that’s for another day.
3Or haven’t you noticed that Wal-Mart’s competition doesn’t stick around for very long? Can you even name one of their competitors? Their prices are the lowest. There is no choice!
4Are there any Robert Frost fans out there? Isn’t one of his more famous poems a monument towards dressing up one’s ultimately inconsequential decisions with the sophistry necessary to sleep soundly at night?
5 On the topic of free will, however, think about the respective natures of reason and instinct. If you reason through your senses (or whatever it is that you use) that something is the best option, you don’t really have an option at all, do you? Would you permit yourself to do something stupid? Aren’t you a slave to your logic’s whims? What about your instincts’? I didn’t want to digress.
6This particular condition is known academically as “pharamceutical modernity,” a term that’s meant to encapsulate the relationship between producer, consumer, and advocate of legal chemical substances.
To paraphrase a stronger thinker and linguist than myself: engaging in the speaking of English is to be beset on all sides by vagueness, insincerity, and falsehood, and that’s only when the structure is correct. Every word is another struggle against these vectors and, unfortunately, not everybody goes home a winner. The purpose of this and, hopefully, many more essays is to put the power of language back into the greasy clutches of the huddled masses, eight (or sixteen, or ten)characters at a time.
Words are tools with which humans work towards what is perhaps the most valuable construct of all: mutual understanding. The entire purpose of this media is to introduce people to ideas that would otherwise go unnoticed (or, more likely, would intentionally [if perhaps unconsciously] remain hidden) because ideas have the power to change lives. If you don’t believe or agree with that conceit then I really am at a loss as to what you’re doing reading at all, but i’d love to discuss it with you.1
FISTLOGO is about believing in the meaning of a phrase so strongly that you can define it and you agree to let it define you-with both the conviction and strength necessary to defend against arguments that would corrupt its meaning. This necessitates both an understanding of the subject matter and a command of popular language, with which one expresses their understanding to others (who presumably don’t know what you’re talking about. Otherwise, why would you feel the need to say it in the first place?)2
It’s this belief (and the contradictions therein) that occupy FISTLOGO: the idea is what’s important, the identity of the purveyor(s) is incidental to the truth3. That’s why we strive to only say true things.. if you find anything here disagreeable, please, disagree. If you can enlighten me as to the error of my thinking, my hopes are that both you and I will be better people for the engagement; the kinds of growth and learning that are worth experiencing and sharing are rarely entirely pleasurable affairs4>. This also extends to each and every aspect of society.
Like i said, the purpose of this is to condense language into its most basic elements for ease of communication—something with which we all, necessarily, struggle.
2This process is alternatively labeled “teaching,” and “learning,” and has historically been the method through which “knowledge” is acquired from one generation of humans by another.
3To quote Bruce Lee: "You see a hand pointing at the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, otherwise you miss all that heavenly glory." wha-cha!
4One such reason for the lack of alacrity in people's thoughts, my own included, comes from a hedonistic desire to maintain the way one believes that the universe works. Help me break free!