Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We are all slaves of defunct ideologues

I may be becoming a binarian in my old age: I'm more accepting of simple divisions now. One is between purists and pragmatists. I try to stay in the latter camp, but I fail, of course. I stumbled on this John Maynard Keyes' quote a few minutes ago:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.
And I thought of another old observation that applies to all of us: generals are always ready to fight the last war.

I fear being the unwitting subjects of beautiful theories is part of the human condition. But it explains the fury of internet outrage, when people angrily promote vaguely-understand ideas that are no longer relevant, and may have never been as useful as their first promoters believed.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

starting a conversation about catcalling and class

Hannah Price's photos of men who catcalled her are fascinating, partly because she's a fine photographer, partly because the conversation keeps being framed in ways she rejects. It first appeared under the headline My Harassers, but she rejected that simplicity in A Photographer Turns Her Lens On Men Who Catcall. She understands that those men are coming from a culture she doesn't know, and she understands the importance of treating different cultures, even those that seem threatening, with respect.

I'm fascinating by catcalling because the people offended by it seem to conflate at least three different things:

1. Attempts to make someone smile.
2. Attempts to get a date.
3. Attempts to insult someone.

Being the class guy, it's the third that most interests me: are the insulting catcallers trying to hurt women, or are they trying to hurt someone who appears to be of a higher class than theirs, someone who has opportunities that they feel have been denied to them?

But the second question interests me, too. The women who complain are inevitably middle or upper class. Does the attempt to get a date ever work with women of the same class as the catcaller?

And the first makes me sad. I've walked by street people who suggested I smile, or cheer up, or appreciate the beautiful day. Not everything said to a stranger—regardless of their sex—is sexual. Sometimes people who are feeling good simply want others to feel good, too.

ETA: Just noticed that my previous post about catcalling was written a year ago. Is October National Catcalling Month?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why it's easier to talk about race and sex than class

If you're white or male, no one will expect you to go as far as John Howard Griffin or Christine Jorgensen. Most people will simply expect you to treat everyone as your social equal. Even among privilege theorists, you needn't do more than periodically acknowledge that you're aware of the privileges you have being white or male—you're not expected to give up those privileges because it's assumed you can't give them up without expensive medical aid.

But if your privilege is economic, everyone knows it's possible to give it away. Jesus, Buddha, and Moses did, and Mohammad chose to live very simply.

Talk about race or sex, and some people will feel guilty for things they can't change. But talk about class, and some people will feel guilty for things they could change.

P.S. Because I hate making people feel guilty, I'll note that while I admire saints, I agree with Marx and Engels: what matters is creating a society in which everyone has the resources for what the Declaration of Independence promised, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"On the Depiction of Women in Games" And books, movies, comics....

"On the Depiction of Women in Games" by Amanda Lange:
The fact is that a lot of times when I see a call to “how women should really be depicted,” it worries me because it feels like there’s a big call for “women should be fully covered up” or “only wear reasonable clothes” and essentially take all the fun and fantasy out. That frankly sucks because even as a woman I like seeing sexy women kicking ass and really want to leave some room for this in my fun-times. 
Here’s my two cents on this. Women should be depicted in a way that’s consistent with the way men are depicted in any one given game. So if a game is supposed to have realistic soldiers in a realistic war environment, it’s silly if the women aren’t also wearing realistic solider uniforms, when the men are. On the other hand, if a game is supposed to have fun fantasy characters I think it’s perfectly OK for women to be depicted in fun fantasy ways. And also men.
Which covers how things should be in every art form: do you treat the women with the same respect—or lack of respect—as the men? If so, any problems in the work come from something other than sexism.

ETA: This is why no cosplayer, female or male, in a chainmail bikini should feel embarrassed by fandom's pulchriphobes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

weirdnesses of the day

Our house has an old garage with an old garage door—wooden, with two one windows. The strikethroughs are because someone broke one of the windows in the door last night. Nothing was taken, maybe because that wasn't the point, maybe because the motion sensor light came on and scared them away, maybe because they saw there was nothing worth the hassle.

Other weirdness is that inside the yard—meaning someone threw it over the fence—was a black power hair pick, the cheap plastic sort that has a fist on the end of the handle.

People connect dots, but not always correctly. These things might not be related.

Why a vandal or a thief would throw away a hair pick is an idea for a story that I doubt I could write.

It'll be a handyman day. I already made the trip to Home Depot for plywood.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reclaiming Civility

My momma taught me me some manners. So did my daddy. I’ll always be sorry that when disagreeing with people who reject civility, I sometimes followed their lead. I rationalized it by saying that going by the house rules is just being polite, but I knew that wasn’t so. The Golden Rule has nothing to do with how people treat you. The Golden Rule is only about being true to yourself.

Manners are about more than philosophy; they’re about tactics, too. Every diplomat knows that—in a better world, we would forget the people who won wars and remember the ones who prevented them. 

In 2009, a CBS poll found that only 24% of women and 14% of men in the USA consider themselves feminist in the absence of a definition, even though most Americans want men and women to have equal rights—in 2010, a Paycheck Fairness Act Coalition poll found that 84% of Americans would support "a new law that would provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace". In 2013, University of Toronto psychologist Nadia Bashir led a team that studied public perceptions of feminists and environmentalists and found they’re unpopular because they have a reputation for rudeness. Bashir suggested listeners “may be more receptive to advocates who defy stereotypes by coming across as pleasant and approachable.”

If I could teach activists one thing, it would be to respect everyone. Some cite Martin Luther King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” to claim King thought civility is oppressive. But his life shows the flaw in that interpretation. Where did he rant at his opponents? Matt Woodley noted that in the Birmingham letter, King "did not question his opponents' motives. Instead, he called them "men of genuine good will" whose "criticisms are sincerely set forth." "I want to try to answer your statement," he wrote, "in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms." And that he did."

King gave advice I wish I’d always remembered: "No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm." In the last year of his life, he said, "The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force." He knew civility is not an obstacle to nonviolent protest. Civility is at its heart. The adjective in "civil disobedience" was crucial to his activism. If it was not, he never would have said, “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”

Where there’s no respect, there's no love.

Three quotes to end on—and out of consideration to feminist anti-racists, none by white men:

"If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die." —Maya Angelou

"Civility costs nothing, and buys everything." —Mary Wortley Montagu

“You should respect each other and refrain from disputes; you should not, like water and oil, repel each other, but should, like milk and water, mingle together.” —Buddha

Related: Respect everyone