Archive for July, 2011

Bad Metaphors

People like to say dramatic things for effect; I don’t suppose anyone thinks too deeply about what they’re saying in any given conversation, and metaphor is largely how we describe and communicate experience. However. When something that would be even a stretched analogy is implied, or outright stated, to be essentially the same thing, it can get offensive.

Like slavery.

No, white, able-bodied, cisgendered, employed, first-world, male – participating in capitalism is NOT THE SAME AS SLAVERY and yes, I meant it when I said you were an asshole for saying it was. Yes, there are people today who are currently enslaved, no, they are not slaves to ‘the man’ or ‘the system’, they are enslaved to other (reprehensible) people. They have no autonomy. Their bodies are used by the (disgusting) person who thinks they can own another person for financial gain. Not to mention the systemic enslavement of Africans in the US from the 1600s to late 1800s.

To say that your having a job in a capitalist society is actually the same as slavery except, you know, with your mind rather that your body is vomit-inducingly inaccurate.

Having children (which, incidentally, you don’t) doesn’t mean you are obligated to work, and even if it did, to compare your ‘obligation’ to set up IT systems is not the same as an enslaved person’s ‘obligation’ to be raped, or to be beaten, or to work at a grueling physical task for no money and little food for hours on end, for days, months, years on end. An enslaved person does not have five weeks of paid vacation per year, or weekends, or a house in the suburbs.

Yes, capitalism can be oppressive. You might be employed by a jerk. You might be ineligible for government support that would allow you to support yourself and any children to a particular standard, and unable to work a job that pays enough to do the same. You might hate your job.

This is not the same as having no choice.

I repeat. This is NOT the same as having NO CHOICE.

Here: a blueprint for an autonomous, off-the-grid commune. Go live off the grid. No one will stop you. Which is the material point. Capitalism will not hunt you down and thrash you within an inch of your life for choosing to do something else.

Incidentally, this also holds true for the grotesque misusage of the term ‘rape’.

No, having to pay tax is not the same as being ‘raped’ by the government. Paying a lot for your new jeans is not at all like rape. Someone viciously mocking you, also totally not like rape. Strip mining vast swathes of the planet is a bit more like rape than those examples, in that the planet cannot give consent, but then, it is a rock with ecosystems on it, and we don’t normally consider rocks as having thoughts or feelings or consciousness which might require consent before doing stuff, so, therefore, still not really like rape at all.

So knock it off.

Anger Fatigue

I don’t post very often these days. This is because I am tired of ranting. It seems like every day there are five or six things to be absolutely enraged over, and it’s exhausting. It’s like I’m getting a repetitive strain injury from overexerting my fury.

The repetition is what makes it so unbearable – the same bloody misogyny and bigotry over and over again. It’s like they never get my letters.

Take the news today (from Google).

1. George Osborne (the money guy in the UK government) ‘hails positive figures despite sluggish growth’

Do you know why? Because he wants to revoke the 50% tax on the super rich, and needs some sort of justification for giving the wealthy more money while his government rips away social support from the neediest members of society. Because, you know, those impoverished senior citizens and people whose disabilities make them unable to work need to stop being such drains on the taxpayer. And if the rich have more money to spend then the economy will recover faster.

This is what is called ‘bullshit’. The economy continues to suffer because banks aren’t lending to small businesses to allow them to grow, individuals are suffering because their jobs are either non-existent or not safe and the cost of living is going up whereas wages are stuck in the 1970s. The problem is that political power has become something that is won through money, so rather than enact legislation designed to bring the greatest good to the greatest number, legislation is designed to protect the people who give the politicians money so they can keep winning elections. This isn’t to say that all politicians are money-grubbing parasites, only that the way in which the system is run encourages supporting the wealthy rather than the masses. Which, suffice to say, blows.

2. Norway Minister Praise Police Response to Gunman. My first thought when I heard about the horrific bomb and shooting in Norway was ‘what? Norway?’ Because this sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen in hip and groovy countries like Norway. Which just goes to show how easy it is to forget that psychopaths can exist anywhere, it’s just harder for them to get weaponry in some places.

The point of this story is that a delusional, violent person went on a rampage and systematically killed innocent people. The tendency in the news is to make it political, because these murderers or, (if they are of the suicidal type of killer) the groups that sponsor them, always claim some sort of cause that they are fighting for. As if most people go around backing up their political views with the blood of various passersby. No. Wrong. There are plenty of people who hold extreme views with which I doubtless vehemently disagree, but who don’t act like killing people is the natural extension of this opinion. A small percentage of the human race are murderers. The rest of us aren’t, and it’s an insult to every non-murderous human being to treat these shitstains like they’ve ever considered a way of expressing their supposed political opinion in a way that doesn’t involve bloodshed.

Even good news, like New York legalizing gay marriage, is dampened by the fact that some douchebags are bringing lawsuits against the right already.

Add that to irritations like the sexist milk commercials about PMS (which is, you know, a man’s problem, because ladeez be craaaazy amirite guys?) and the douchey douche commercials, which have managed to add racism to the whole ‘vaginas are great because men like them!’ sexist message, on top of the asinine suggestion that people with vaginas need deodorant for their vulvas, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m missing something here. How can advertising like that still even work? Does anyone think ‘man, I’m thirsty for a beverage that I can give my woman to make her stop being irrational?’ or ‘gosh, what’s the best way to groom my vuvlo-vaginal area so that I can maintain the vagina’s status as some sort of free-standing holy grail rather than a functioning part of my anatomy?’

Also, I feel I should note that this blog’s spellcheck doesn’t like ‘vagina’ or ‘vulva’ to be plural. Because there can be only one?

It’s hard to keep believing that people are basically decent when everything around me suggest that people are either classist entitled pricks, racist sociopaths, sexually repressed homophobes, or misogynistic chimps.

In Which I Learn that I Know Nothing

I am currently learning how to be not good at something.

At the grand old age of 31 there is little that some analytical thinking skills, Google, and a penknife can’t help me figure out. Adulthood is full of all sorts of little disappointments and accidents, but one does eventually get quite good at the basic business of getting through the day.

Chuck Norris

image from chucknorris.com

After several years of waffling, I have finally recommenced with martial arts. I took Tae Kwon Do classes (as well as swimming and diving and piano and acting), when I was a kid. No one will soon be mistaking me for Chuck Norris after my handful of lessons in Hapkido.

I am generally a pretty confident person, convinced, by and large, of my own general competence. In my new uniform, which feels stiff and gigantic, I am shy and apologetic. I ‘ki-hap’ (that’s the shout-y bit) as quietly as I can. I say ‘yes ma’am’ awkwardly to our Saboumnim. Everyone in my class is more experienced than me – they help teach me the five or six things I have learned so far, they give me tips on technique, they tell me I am doing well – and I am embarrassed, and afraid they are bored, or that I will do something wrong and hurt them.

At least once per class I fight down tears of frustration. Anger, sometimes, because how come these people have to tell me what to do? How come they have to witness my ignorance and point it out? And also why do they have to grab my wrist so hard?

And then I remember, this is what it is to begin. It is not my wrist that hurts, it is my ego. Everyone does know more than me, and I can’t learn what they know unless they tell me what to do. They are not judging me – how could I know something I haven’t yet been taught?

Why am I ashamed that I am not good at it yet? Because I am used to being good at things. I am used to feeling, more or less, equal in general knowledge and skills to the with whom people I regularly interact. Which is not to say that this is true, merely that I can move through the world as if it is true. These classes are challenging that. In a very physical way.

And yet, the red-faced moments pass. I keep on kicking or punching or blocking as I am told, and as I keep going, those moments get shorter. And that happens because I am learning to accept that of course I don’t know, that is not bad, it’s just a statement of fact. That I learn when I listen and do as I’m told, when I stop resisting the fact of my own ignorance. It doesn’t mean I know nothing, it just means I haven’t learned this yet.

I’m guessing learning not to get mad at myself will be at least as valuable as the throwing-attackers-and-breaking-their-arm move.


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