Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Embracing, and other Emasculating Techniques

Today is my 34th birthday, and so I am giving myself a birthday present. I am attempting to write down the reason this past year was so far the happiest year of my life. There was plenty of stress, and there was not a great deal of elation, but I have consistently felt more fulfilled than at any other time in my life. When I regularly asked myself the question, "Am I happy?" I unhesitatingly answered, "Yes," every time for a full year. That is the first time that has ever been true for me, and I hope to replicate the success moving forward. I believe the reason is my  full-frontal embrace of emasculation.

Right in the Kisser

 Next time someone calls you a pussy, try saying this.

"I love pussies. Pussies give birth, and ecstasy. Next time you have a chance, take a good long look at a pussy. They're amazing."

That's right. Take pride in your pussiness. Don't be ashamed of being feminine, and don't be afraid of men who live in circles and cycles of violence.

This last year, my greatest success has been in embracing, even kissing emasculinity. When someone looks at me weird for wearing a Utilikilt, I kiss a baby, or casually call it a skirt, or refer to my bag as a purse. Don't get me wrong, it takes courage, but when the expectations of thousands of years of masculinization are lifted from your shoulders, it's arousing (in a bit of a sexual way), as well as comforting. It's amazing how much the expectations of masculinity ride on our shoulders, leaving us nervous that we might get confused for gay, or a woman, or a gay woman, or whatever, whoever, who cares? When I wear a skirt, and tell a child to give me a kiss "right in the kisser," or openly use the word "cuddle," I find it hard to care if someone thinks I'm a "pussy."

The problem I am overlooking, of course, is the threat of violence. Once I figured out that the carrot of masculinity is not all it is cracked up to be, they hauled out the great stick and literally threatened me with it a la Matthew Shepard. Being a pussy takes guts, but as John Wayne said to Barbara Walters when she was the only woman anchor on network television, "Don't let the bastards get you down."

Most of the time, the bigots are too confused to be angry, and with the bullshit promise of a consolation prize cast off my shoulders, I have found a comfort in the everyday that most men I speak with don't understand. It's the openness to look someone in the eye as you pass them in the street. It's the ability to feel comfortable in public even when you feel out of place. It's the confidence to show open, unmitigated affection to your wife, kids, and even *gasp* other men. It has contributed to my overall fulfillment more than any other single thing in my life.

Letting the Joneses use the Passing Lane

I still feel the marketer's pull to buy the latest tablet, a more fuel-efficient car, more energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, and cooler accessories (someone please buy me a Rivendell bicycle for my birthday).

I emphasize energy and fuel efficiency not because I want to seem self-righteous, but because energy efficiency is as big a load of manure pushed on us by the marketers as pickup trucks that roll coal, 4,000 ft/sq McMansions, and American football. It's just that energy efficient shit is the stuff that appeals to me. The long-term environmental impact of selling an Expedition to buy a Tesla is mild at best, because the Expedition has to go somewhere, unless you throw it away, and building any auto has a footprint far larger than simply running an existing car until it is no longer reliable. Not to mention the fact that environmentally friendly cars help us accept long commutes that make us less happy and less healthy.

I've read all the studies, and done the research, and I know that replacing my Kia before it is ready for the junkyard is not a sound environmental choice, yet I still want to look like the great environmentalist. You know, the guy who drives the Nissan Leaf, when he's not riding his Rivendell bicycle everywhere (did I mention that I really want a Rivendell?). And I can handle not having a Tesla and a Rivendell... until someone I know buys one.

Studies have shown that talking about a cool new toy, or a cool experience on Facebook makes other users less happy. In fact, that is exactly why Facebook is such a commercial success. It makes us envious. We want to buy what our "friends" have.

I have some envy when I read the posts of those people with imaginary happy Facebook lives, but I feel something else too. Marketers tell us that men have certain things (in my case Rivendell bicycles). Therefore, if I don't have those things, I am not a very good man. But that is not my biggest problem with the keeping-up-with-the-joneses mentality.

My family and I have made decisions which help us lead responsible, happier, and more sustainable (and yes more efficient) lives. So, when I see a "friend" buy a new pickup or a McMansion, it is frustrating to see them make such irresponsible choices. While my gut is feeling envy, my head is feeling frustration. All in all, the Keeping-Up-With-The-Joneses mentality is the one holding me back from happiness the most.

The difficulty is in accepting other people's choices without letting them brainwash me into believing they are responsible choices, or worse, not caring. They may make irresponsible choices, but most of the people making those damaging macro-choices are kind and loving people who make very good choices about the small stuff. Most of them look at my choices through the lens of marketers and think I'm a martyr, not a person using massive amounts of scientific data in a search for fulfillment and happiness.

I was happier this last year because I have been getting better at embracing the emasculation of not having the cool toys my friends and neighbors have. The key has been gratitude. It should not be a self-congratulatory gratitude (after all, my "security" is mostly a result of being born white in an established colonial power). Gratitude that you made the right choices in the past leads to anxiety and pride, neither of which are conducive to happiness.

The kind of gratitude that makes one happy is emasculating. The grateful cannot subjectify themselves by taking any credit. They are objectified by the world. I have almost no control over my life, yet the world has secured me, and for that I am grateful. A truly grateful person does not feel entitled to a large house, or an expensive (albeit awesome) bicycle. A grateful person researches his actions to make wise, efficient, and sustainable choices, not because he is morally superior, but because he is emasculated by a world that is so overwhelmingly powerful. That may look like martyrism to some, mostly unhappy people who are tucked inside the "toxic" culture of materialism.

What is a martyr who is attempting to be happy? In the coming year, I hope to continue to find out. I will try to be a laughing radical, and the more I laugh, the closer I get.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sexy Is...

This short blog today is just to say one thing... sexy is racial(ist?).
Really, Thrillist?
This is who you choose to depict South Africa?
I have often said that gender is always already raced, and race similarly is always already gendered. Here is what I mean. In this article where 40,000 men responded to the question, "What is the sexiest country?" the answers were almost exclusively white countries. But even worse, the one country with a large number of black people, South Africa is represented by a white woman. Even Brazil is represented by lighter colored women.

We claim to be more color blind than any other previous American generation, but ican we really say that? This study (and the accompanying study of the top ten sexiest country according to women voters) shows us that color-blindness is impossible. We instantaneously judge people based on the color of their skin, even before we can consciously think about it. Similarly, we instantaneously and unthinkingly judge people based on their perceived gender. There are consequences to both.

Not the least consequence is in the anti-bullying efforts sweeping across the country over the last several years. Too many of these campaigns criminalize low levels of violence, and even nonviolent threats, but law enforcement does not help children become better people. In fact, the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline makes it clear that institutionalization leads to more institutionalization. And as a recent study showed, even black preschoolers are more likely to start down the pipeline than their white peers.

The moral of the story is this... Simply choosing to ignore race and gender is not the answer. We make assumptions about people before we even realize we are making those assumptions. We must actively engage in a struggle against sexism and racism or we will lose before we even begin.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Know Your Rights When Arrested

This excerpt from Burnt Earth accompanies last week's entry well, as after one is pulled over for running a stop sign, it helps to know your rights, but knowing your rights can backfire with the wrong police officer.

If you have any questions concerning your rights subject to arrest, please ask them in the comments.


Slim Cassidy crossed the street and aimed toward her house on the other side of Civic Center Park. The park was starting to lose some of the oak leaves, and there were kids huddling about the statues as if the cold bronze figures were all raging hearths. She decided to detour through the park. She regularly enjoyed wandering through the proscenium of the little concrete amphitheater and admiring the frescoes painted underneath the columned turrets.

She went around the back of the amphitheater, stepped up on to the proscenium, and glanced at the fur trapper painted on the wall above her. She looked out over the stage to where the audience sat for Shakespeare in the park, and stopped short. In the orchestra, two police officers were hovering over a high school kid who was seated on one of the marble steps.

Damn it, she thought, I should just walk away. He’s just a kid. At most he’s holding pot. It’s just a juvenile offense. He’ll be out before supper. Slim whirled around and pointed herself toward home when she overheard the conversation.

You can’t arrest me for having pot. Pot is legal in Colorado. Why don’t you guys just leave me alone.

The teenager’s angsty plea frustrated Slim. She wanted to tell the little brat to shut his mouth. Anything he said was just leaving an opening for the cop to get the confession he was looking for. However, if the kid had any kind of drugs on him, he was going to be busted. Colorado may have legalized recreational marijuana, but this kid was clearly underage, and even if he wasn't, it was still illegal to toke up in a public park.

My beautiful walk on this beautiful fall day ruined by an idiot kid with a grass habit. She knew that she didn’t have to turn around. She knew that she was only asking for trouble. She knew that it was her time off, and she had to get to her Thursday evening prayer circle in a little more than an hour. But she turned around, athletically hopped the outer rim of the amphitheater, and started a direct rapid march toward the two officers and the kid.

As she crossed the last bench, one of the officers looked up. The kid was sitting on a stair a few feet further behind him. All three of them were looking at the woman in her trial suit with dreadlocks and short heels practically throwing herself down the stone benches lining the Greek-style amphitheater. Part of her remembered what it felt like to act in a play, grabbing your audience in a grand entrance.

It seemed to her that the entire world stopped except her little French scene with the police and this pothead kid. A skateboard was strewn where the kid had dropped it. Slim started to piece together the scene. She had to make some assumptions.

Her mind rushed through her ethical obligations to the police officers… to the teenager… to the defenders office… to the court… She had no Colorado Attorney’s License, so she couldn’t do anything that implied that she could practice local law, unless in an emergency situation. This was exactly the kind of a situation that was classified as an emergency, where the attorney stumbles upon a client whose rights are in immediate threat of violation, and whose actions could severely inhibit any future representation. All right, she thought, at least I’m not violating any Professional Rules if I help out.

By the time she thought that through, she felt like she was literally standing at the trooper’s feet, because he was a towering individual. Her nose came up to his badge, which was not a good location for her. Not only did he probably think that his badge garnered respect, but she thought there were few things in the world so overrepresented as men with badges. We hand out so many guns that we have to hand out a lot of badges to go with them, even though most of the idiots wearing them don’t deserve them.

Gentlemen, she pronounced. She felt like she was their captain back at the station rather than some interloper from the street, the way that all three of them were staring at her. I am this child’s attorney.

She wasn’t sure what any of them expected her to say, but she was quite sure that none of them expected her to say that. They all looked a little taken aback, but none so much as the teenager himself. He had a streak of red in his hair and he wore sagging pants and a large baggy flannel. She thought there must be a resurgence of the nineties. I wonder if he has Nirvana on an iPod somewhere.

The trooper took a moment to recover, and then stammered something about her identification. Slim realized that she had already transferred her wallet to the top of her purse on the treacherous walk into the orchestra. She pulled it out, whipped out her driver’s license, Federal Defender’s ID and her business card and threw them at the trooper. Without giving him any time to examine them, she officiated, I need to confer with my client, and walked around the tall man as though he wasn’t even there.

The shorter trooper did not leave the teenager’s side. He patiently awaited Slim’s arrival and then stood up to separate the teenager from her. Hold on, lady.

Slim growled, My client has a right to counsel at this or any stage of an investigation and I want to see you try to impede that right.

This cop was smarter than the tall one. He was Latino, and a little bit round. He gave the impression that he had seen a lot, and while Slim was pretty sure he had never seen anything like this before, he didn’t show it.

She instantly respected him because he wasn’t to be rushed. The best police officers are always those who take their time and act as a calming force on the tense situations in which they find themselves. These were the cops who would actually tell the truth. The truth was not usually a good thing for Slim’s clients, but there were times in every case where it was. There was always a witness that was a little too eager to tell his story and exaggerate how close he was, or how unobstructed his view was. A cop like this round one standing between her and the pseudo-grunge kid, was the kind of cop who believed in the truth for its own sake. His admission on the stand that this witness or that witness was not where they said they were, would make his testimony all the more reliable. From then on, juries ate up anything those cops said.

Slim could tell she was in trouble. She could handle a bad cop. They were a dime a dozen and all of them put together were worth no more than a nickel. This was a good cop. Bravado wouldn’t work on this guy. With this guy, she actually needed the law on her side.

That all depends… mulled the round faced officer.

Slim knew what was coming next, so she attempted to preempt it, If he believes that I am his attorney, than I am. That’s how it works, she said and tried to look around the officer. He moved his body slightly. Not enough that most passers-by would notice, but enough that Slim couldn’t get really good eye contact with the kid.

The good cop turned away from Slim to face the kid, which gave Slim a chance to look him in the eye. What’s this woman’s name, kid?

The name doesn’t matter, interrupted Slim. What matters is his belief that I speak on his behalf, and if he reasonably believes that, than I have an obligation to…

Cut it woman, said the big cop, or I’ll bring you in for impeding the conduct of an officer of the law.

This was the argument that Slim wanted to be in. She didn’t want to have to wait for the smart cop to ask the kid if she was his lawyer or not. If that happened, the kid could say ‘no.’ He didn’t know her from a hole in the ground. For all he knew, in the way that these kids’ brains worked, she could be a cop trying to get him to confess. She wanted to have the ‘impeding with an investigation’ argument, because she knew that she could win that without any help from the kid.

She spun around and launched on the big trooper. I am not impeding in an investigation. I speak on behalf of my client. If you intend to ask my client questions than you have to ask those questions of me. From here on out, nothing that he says means anything unless it goes through his attorney, get it? I can no more impede an investigation than this kid can impede an investigation by invoking his Miranda rights.

Well then we’ll just arrest your client and see you at the station house.

What’s your probable cause? What are you arresting my client for?

The big cop was taking the bait. He thought about it. He admitted that he had pot.

He admitted nothing of the sort. He told you that you couldn’t arrest him for having pot. That was simply a legal debate with a police officer.

The big guy’s chin dropped a little as he took this in. He seemed at once shocked that she had overheard the conversation, as though she was some kind of a mind reader, and determined to arrest the kid even if he had to fight through Slim with his nightstick. Eventually, he dried the drool from his chin and said, He was riding a skateboard. Skateboards are not permitted.

Fine. You have the skateboard. You witnessed him riding the skateboard, but you do not have a right to search him.

We have to frisk him.

This lummox cop was going down the exact rabbit hole that Slim wanted him to go down. Terry frisks are only allowed if you have reason to believe that this kid is dangerous. You already have all the evidence of his alleged crime. You have the skateboard. What possible evidence do you believe that you could find by searching him any further? Do you have any reason to believe that this kid is carrying a weapon?

The big cop thought about it and said, Because he was committing a crime.

No sir, that is not enough. Unless you want to be on the butt end of a big fat law suit, you have to have some reason to believe that this kid is packing heat.

The other cop slowly spoke up. Walters. Stop it. We can always search when we arrest him.

Arrest him for what? Slim said urgently, realizing that she had to be delicate with the good cop. This put her in the tight spot of appealing to one of the troopers as a intelligent and rational human, while bullying her way through the other one because she knew that reason would not work.

For riding the skateboard in the park.

That’s a little extreme, don’t you think, Officer? she asked with honey on her tongue.

I don’t know if it’s extreme or not, but we could do it and that would give us the right to search, yes?

Only if you are willing to arrest the poor kid for riding a skateboard. Come on, that’s really not necessary. He was riding a skateboard in a park… she tried to bring the officer into her confidence with a ‘boys will be boys’ tone of voice, …what’s so wrong about that? A ticket maybe, but do you really want to arrest anyone who wants to ride their skateboard in a park? You guys have real criminals that you could be going after.

The round-faced Latino cop looked over Slim’s head at the big dumb white cop and shrugged. Slim turned around to see the big guy, a little rebuffed by his confrontation, shrug back. The smart cop looked at the kid and sarcastically said, You have a good lawyer there, kid.

The kid just shrugged as Slim’s phone rang. Both police officers turned to look at her. When she saw it was Thom, she blocked the call and put the phone back in her pocket.

I’m not going to write you a ticket, said the big cop, because knowing lawyers, you’re going to get a bill from her next week, and it’s going to set you back a lot more than any ticket I could write. The big cop put himself into hysterics at his joke, and even elicited a chuckle from the Latino cop.

Slim let herself laugh along until she saw the kid open up his mouth as if he was about to say that she wasn’t his lawyer after all. She reached out a hand to the kid and shook it. This one’s on the house, but next time… They all laughed again, and then the cops started walking away.

Yeah… Laugh it up pigs, said the kid a little too loudly. Laugh it up you fucking cocksuckers.

That was all he needed. The lummox turned around, ran at the kid, and tackled him seemingly without effort. He started wrestling with the skinny kid who was fighting the cop every inch of the way and shouting, What da fuck man? Leave me the fuck alone!

Slim felt a ball of rage rise up in her gut and had a very strong urge to leave the psuedo-grunge idiot in his mess. The lummox trooper and the moron punk deserved each other. She watched while the trooper got the kids hands behind his back. She knew that normally an enraged cop would be twisting arms a little more, and pushing a little harder, but every once in a while the oaf looked up at Slim and then back down at his handy work to see if she was going to complain.

Finally, Slim was able to calm down enough to realize that once she started representing the punk kid, it was incompetent not to see it through. What are you arresting him for? sighed Slim.

The Latino cop stood between her and his partner, obviously content to spend the next couple hours booking this kid into the station house. He said, You know what we’re arresting him for, and looked at her pointedly.

They both knew that the kid was in handcuffs because he just called a cop a cocksucker, but she said, Skateboarding?

That’s right.

I thought we just established that you weren’t going to do that? she smiled and raised her eyebrows as even she realized how ridiculous the objection was.

The good cop thought about it for a moment, while the lummox continued searching the kid, and Slim’s phone rang again. I thought so to, but apparently Rick wasn’t convinced.

Slim let the phone ring. Hey, Rick! she said.

The big dumb guy looked up at her, but the Latino cop simply said, Let him finish his search. We can talk at the station house.

Hey, Rick, she said anyway, he doesn’t consent to a search!

We figured that much, said the Latino again as the dumb cop continued his frisk. And I presume that he’s lawyered up and that he is choosing to remain silent.

You got it. No interrogation unless his lawyer is present.

I thought you were his lawyer.

I guess I am… she said ruefully, realizing that her life just became more complicated. Her phone rang again. I’m sorry about that, she uttered as she blocked the call and turned off the phone.

Paul… Look what I found.

Slim set down her bag, took out a notepad and started taking notes. She didn’t even need to look up to know what they had found. By the time she looked up with her pen in hand, Troopers Paul and Rick were handing around a baggie of pot with a pipe in it. The lummox was already cuffing the kid.

The Latino cop looked at Slim and said, You still want him as your client?

Slim refused to acknowledge his sarcastic remark. Where are you taking him?

We use the DPD station.

What’s his name?

The big cop answered by asking, What’s your name kid so that your lawyer can find you?

When she wrote down his name and confirmed that she had spelled it right, she informed them that she would be meeting them at the station and reminded the cops that he was represented, so they were not to interrogate.

As she walked toward the station, which was only a couple of blocks away, she turned her attention to the voice mails on her cell phone.


Burnt Earth is available on Kobo, Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and other electronic bookstores.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nonviolent Resistance= Bicycle Commuting

Bicyclists Everywhere!!!

For more than 20 years, I have been predominantly a bicycle commuter. A lot has changed. There are more bicycles than ever, but I fear that it is just a fad. So, using my 20 years of experience as a bicycle commuter, my decades of experience as a nonviolent resistor, and my training as a lawyer, I have developed a Real Bicycle Safety Code meant to encourage cycling while resisting the extremely disastrous notion that bicycles should be treated the same as automobiles.

Divide Both to Conquer Each

The current laws create antagonism by forcing bicyclists and cars to share the same space on the road. While almost all cyclists are also automobilists, the reverse is not true, and most legislatures do not have the slightest idea how it feels to commute on a bicycle in a snowstorm (i.e. wonderfully liberating). Studies show that more people want to ride, but they feel unwelcome and unsafe. The Real Bicycle Safety Code is meant to deal with that problem by encouraging casual cyclists to join in the fun.

One way to encourage people to ride is to smile when you see a baby on a bicycle. Smile when you see another cyclist. In all my years of riding my bike to get places, riders have never been so surly and 'manly'. Please remember, cycling is still as much fun as when you climbed up that steep hill so that you could race down the other side to the candy store. Whether you're a cruiser, fixie rider, gear head, or a utilitarian, follow this code to make riding better for everyone and remember to have fun.

The Real Bicycle Safety Code

While I believe these rules are safer than current laws treating bicycles like cars, no  set of rules can guarantee your safety. Please ride safely and carefully. Wear a helmet and don't listen to music while you ride.

 1. Always Stop and Wait at Red Lights (Unless the Pedestrian Sign Says You Can Go)
The Dutch always stop at lights, but they
have better structures for keeping cyclists
We have to keep cars off side streets except as they traverse to the main streets. In order to do that, we
should encourage bicycles to streets with more stop signs and fewer lights, which is why we should pressure other cyclists into stopping at red lights. We could each try to decide which streets should be "auto-friendly," but we would never all agree. It is better to follow the existing structure and let "bicycle-friendly" streets evolve naturally. When all the streets in an area have lights (in major downtown areas), following pedestrian lights will sometimes space out bicycles from cars, thereby making everyone more comfortable on the road.

2. Treat Stop Signs As Yield Signs

Bicycles, like cars, are drawn to the routes where they can expend the least energy by stopping the least often. If we can draw bicycles to streets with stop signs, they will stay out of
larger streets more appropriately left to cars. This will make novice riders feel more comfortable riding with larger groups of riders on stretches lined with stop signs. Yielding at stop signs means slowing down, keeping your hands or feet on the brakes, looking both ways, and stopping for any automobile that is crossing against your bike. Similarly, four way stops should be treated as four way yields.

3. Wait at the Front of Traffic for Red Lights

You are more visible, safer, don't breath in fumes that chase off novice cyclists, and can have a friendly chat with the other cyclists. Try to stay out of the way of pedestrians. After all, you're on a bike. It's small and maneuverable, so you can easily move out of the way when needed. That's why bikes are just better.

4. Four Miles Per Hour on Sidewalks

An original 1913 bike messenger in New Orleans.
Try to ride sidewalks at the same speed as a jogger would negotiate it. Riding on sidewalks is often necessary for basic safety, and making people get off and walk is a deterrent because it is unwieldy, and makes bikes less maneuverable. In order to turn left out of a right-hand bike lane, using a sidewalk and crosswalk to get into the cross street is the only safe option. The last half block on a major street like Los Feliz in L.A., Colfax in Denver, Rhode Island Avenue in D.C., or Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn should be negotiated on the sidewalk. However, the speed limit on any sidewalk should be around 4 miles per hour to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

5. Accept the Ticket and Be Nice

This is the great day when a bicycle
cop pulled over a car. 1942.
The ticket you may receive for following this Real Safety Code is worth it. This code keeps you safe and efficient, encourages others to choose this safe and convenient form of transport, and keeps the future of our planet healthier. However, as with all civil disobedience, it is not legal. Every time you get a ticket, you have an opportunity to talk about the Real Bicycle Safety Code. Tell the officer about the code, tell the judge about the code, ask for a jury if you can, and tell all your friends.

Self Defense

Stree art in Panang, China captured by Azreey.
If you are ticketed for following the Code, I encourage you to explain your reasoning to the judge, and introduce this John's Hopkin's info page showing the health risks of inactivity, and these  U.N. Reports on the certainty of anthropogenic climate change, and the likely effects of climate change. You should claim self-defense against climate change and disease (including heart attack and cancer) as the reasons for following this code, and self-defense against an accident with a car as your reason for the specific infraction (be it breaking a stop sign, or riding on a sidewalk). Self defense forced you to ride in a way that you believe is sustainable, and self defense forced you to ride in a way that is less likely to be hit by a car. You will likely lose your case, but pay your fine knowing that you have made the world a better place, and the fine is a lot cheaper than the costs of commuting in a car. Losing cases like this is what civil disobedience is all about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Immigrant Crossing: Intersecting Race and Gender

Next week, I am releasing a novel about an immigrant who is accused of murder. The book is a thrilling and creative exploration of what it means to be an American, and who gets to make that decision. We glorify the immigrants who crossed the country in covered wagons, and the immigrants who first landed at Plymouth Rock, while militarizing the southern border and deifying new immigrants as gangs of thugs. The reasons for these seemingly complicated conflicting feelings are rooted in the same old triumvirate of dickishness; subjectification, the warrior/thug complex, and the consolation prize.


In 2011, I wrote about how Tom Tancredo and his masculinity clones were attempting to highlight the MS-13 gang as an example of how immigrants from Latin America were thugs. We pick a group with whom we identify, and label outside groups as thugs. This is the Warrior/Thug Complex. With immigration, it's easy. Immigrants come from other cultures,
Yeah! A wall. It worked so great for the Chinese!
they often speak other languages, and usually speak it with a funny accent (like those darn Canadians). Best yet for deciding who is not a proper warrior, immigrants from lower latitudes are usually brownish. It's like a storm trooper's uniform except they can't take it off.

In a society that suffers remarkably little violent crime, masculinity will not survive unless males can be convinced that they are at risk of imminent violence at any moment. Thugs must be identified in order to allow men to be warriors, otherwise advocates of irrational violence just seem like tinfoil hats (thanks to Eric Schultz for that phrase). Immigration provides masculinity in the new world and increasingly in Europe with hordes of thugs needed to make men believe they must continue to glorify violence or suffer the consequences.

ESL- English as a Second cLass Marker

Americans of a certain educational class get goose pimples every time they spot errors in how people use English. We cite old wives' tales as grammar rules, and try to pretend that language is static. This is ridiculous considering just how rapidly language evolves, and is ever-evolving. Just consider that the word selfie is now in every major American dictionary.

Sorry to those looking for solid rules. Language doesn't fit into neat categories,
and when it does it is still evolving and changing.
1- Ever heard of sarcasm? e.g. "I could care less by completely ignoring you."
2- Except in a plural acronym e.g. M.D.'s.
3- Just because 'literally' is the antonym of 'figuratively' does not mean it cannot be used figuratively. If that were true, it would be bad grammar to write the word 'large' in a small or medium-sized font.
8- Except when 'effect' is a transitive verb.
10- Just because it's nonstandard, doesn't mean it's not a word.
Addendum i- Prepositions are fine to end sentences with. Please stop spreading this old wives' tale. To quote Churchill, "This is just the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put."
Addendum ii- I find it ironic when people claim there is only one narrow definition of  'irony.'
Conclusion- Grammar is a nefarious tool to discover those who don't belong.
Feel free to use proper grammar, but don't think less of those who don't!
The reality is that grammar is now what it has always been, a way of telling the unwashed masses from the educated elite. When a grammar sheriff of Nottingham tells Robin Hood that he should not end a sentence with a preposition, he is reflecting the belief of extreme elitists from the 17th Century who designed a grammar which reflected Latin in order to better determine which of their peers had been to a proper Latin college (i.e.- not Shakespeare).

Today, we mostly use grammar and "proper English" to determine who has been middle class or above for long enough to be considered properly American, and therefore a properly subjectified man (or privileged woman). Better yet, by pointing out "errors" in grammar, we can objectify others instead of considering the substance of their ideas, arguments, and legitimate claims at liberation. By focusing on how an Asian immigrant speaks funny, or on how black men don't speak "white," we can lump these people into groups less deserving of the consolation prize.

Overseers Over Seeing

And our consolation prize is the same as it was in the antebellum south. We are White (Straight) Men. This fact may alienate us from our children, other men, even our wives and lovers, but at least we are at the top of the heap, the head of the pack. Even within the group of white men, we may not be the CEO in charge of Georgia Pacific Paper Company (The Koch Brothers), or even a small-business owner. But at least we are not brownish. Seeing the welfare state erode before us, knowing that starvation and ostracism awaits us if we fail to succeed as proper men, we are rightfully terrified that we could fail even if we are hard working and relatively competent. Most men don't realize that it's just a Cracker Jack prize. We have little individual control over our economic situations, even if we are white, but we have a little more than those brownish guys do.
Give us your sick, tired, and poor
so that we can laugh at them as
we point out how they are not real men.

Immigration is the great story of the new world. If America is exceptional, it is not exceptional like a souffle. It is exceptional like a potager, a mix of all the vegetables in the garden in one tremendous stew. It seems like blindness that leads so many Americans to fight each wave of immigration, or complete disregard for history. I assure you it is not. The reason that Sheriff Joe is elected to office repeatedly in Arizona isn't that people don't know how important immigration is to our success, but because immigration provides too great a foil for American masculinity. Hating immigrants is one of the costs of masculinity.

On its own, masculinity is a great weight on men. We would not carry that burden unless there were carrots and sticks. Xenophobia provides both. It is another part of masculinity that we must dismantle before we can be free.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Competitive? or Just a Dick?


Penguin Toss is available for your
mobile device. Just don't be a dick.
I am competitive. If a board game has the slightest bit of skill involved, I spend the entire game focused on trying to win. I take the rules out of the box, try to exploit every loophole, and figure out how to come in first. When I'm riding my bicycle to work, being passed sends me into a huff of concentration to try to catch the passer, who fends me off with the exuberance of Lance Doping Armstrong. Once, I spent several hours playing an arcade game where a polar bear (North Pole) used a large fish to bat a penguin (Southern Hemisphere) until I beat the distance record. That's right, a polar-bear-hitting-a-penguin-with-a-fish distance record mattered enough to me to waste many hours, and many more dollars. Obviously, this is not healthy, but it is very masculine. All three of the dickheads of masculinity are shoved into this kind of competitiveness.

It's Not So Much About Winning, but Yes It Is

First off, I wanted to subjectify myself as the person who was in control of the polar bear fish batting penguin game. If I won, I won. It's pretty straight forward, but it also defeated the point of playing games, which was to hang out with other people at Dave and Busters, while having fun. I immediately thought of the other people around me batting their penguins as competition, in other words, thugs to be defeated. But the most important part of playing games and sports as a dick/masculine man, was that I got a consolation prize when I won. I may still have been beholden to extremely wealthy patriarchs for my basic food, housing, and healthcare needs, as they continued to fight any effort to clean up the environment while selling me stuff that I didn't need and made me less happy... But by golly, my polar bear sure hit that penguin a long way with that fish. If I just kept focusing on riding faster, winning more, and getting more of these consolation prizes, then I could forget about the true harm being perpetrated on the world by the patriarchal corporatocracy.

Competition is Fun for Everyone! Being a Dick is Fun Just for You.

I think most people have had healthy competition at some point. I used to love riding single track with my future partner. As we competed, we grew closer until eventually we decided to raise children together. When
These U.S. Sailors are playing kickball
with local kids.
competition is done correctly, it is fun, and it brings people closer together. But if you find that you need time before talking to other competitors after the game, maybe you should sign up for a nightlight boccie ball league, or a hard drinking kickball team. I hate to break it to you, but you may not be a liberated competitive person. You may just be a dick.

U.S. Marine Diaper Derby
At some point I realized that, amazingly, most of the women in my life were content to play a little, have fun, then stop. While playing ultimate Frisbee or soccer, some women may have been rubbish, but when it came to being happy and free, they had me soundly beat. So, I started answering Man Up, with Man Back, Dude. Man Back. Or, when the double entendre was appropriate, Man Down.

The prime example of manning back is racing a toddler. When you footrace a toddler, you win when you think it's good for the toddler, and you lose when you think it's good for the toddler. Here, you are playing the game for the human interaction. You aren't playing for the love of the game, because who the fuck cares if you love a stupid game? You are playing for the love of a person, and that's what counts.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"Stop Teaching Your Girls..." Entertainment Addiction

In Bronies -2, I Had Few Conversations About This Quote

Stop teaching your girls about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games in an effort to liberate them. "

Children don't recognize The Hunger Games
as social commentary, because of the
plethora of glorified battle sequences.
It is okay to read the Hunger Games. If your children tell you they want to see the Hunger Games, don't dismiss the idea out-of-hand. The franchise can be considered a critique of American militarism. The stories identify the line between physicality and violence, and deliberately cross that line. If violence is physicality with the intent of hurting another person, then clearly we in America have some forms of entertainment that are violent, and to the extent that we do, can we justify those entertainment forms? Did our constant justification of entertainment violence enable us to justify violent action in Iraq in March of 2003? Does our paranoia that leads to NSA spying, TSA craziness, and black lists arise from our constant playing out of destructive and violent narratives in popular culture? These are legitimate questions raised by The Hunger Games.

by Franc1NE, this image is represen
tative of the cosplay surrounding
The Hunger Games.
However, if viewers were truly interested in The Hunger Games as a social critique, the popularity of nonviolent protest against violence and militarism would have increased after the first film was released. Sadly, the only thing that has increased as a result of The Hunger Games, other than the bottom lines of multinational corporations, has been registration in archery classes to practice wielding violence (or at best provide a nonviolent outlet for violent urges with roots in the franchise). The Hunger Games is a franchise dedicated to entertainment violence weakly justified on the back of a critique of entertainment violence. If your child isn't able to grasp this irony, then they aren't ready to understand the Hunger Games as anything more than propaganda for the military industrial complex.

A Debate with a Welfare Libertarian (Mainstream Democrat from Gen X)

Gen X: I'm not going to censor my child's entertainment.

Me: It's not censorship. Censorship is when you remove something that you deem to be bad for society. Simply being conscious about the material that you procure for your child isn't censorship. It's citizenship.

Gen X: I don't decide for my child what he should read, watch, or listen to.

Me: If you don't, then multinational corporations will, and they've spent trillions of dollars over decades figuring out how to get your child to do exactly what they want him to do.

Gen X: Art is too important for me to foist my opinions on my child.

Me: When you procure The Hunger Games, or bondage child pornography for your child, you are indoctrinating them with your opinion of what is art by making an affirmative gesture to support it.

Gen X: Oh, calm down. It's just some fluffy entertainment. It's not bondage child pornography. It's The Hunger Games, a book written for children.

Me: But I'm arguing that justifying violence in our society is what leads to things like domestic abuse, rape, many assaults and murders, as well as inexcusable military actions and racist policing policies. The Hunger Games is an exercise in justifying violence, so it could be a root cause of these problems.

Gen X: So, you're saying I shouldn't let my child see The Hunger Games.

Me: No. I'm saying if your child isn't able to grasp the irony of violent entertainment as critique of violent entertainment, they aren't ready to understand the Hunger Games as anything more than propaganda for the military industrial complex.

Gen X: I'm not going to censor my children's entertainment.

Eye roll provided by Buster Keaton.

Addicted to Entertainment

Why is this so frustrating that I turn into Buster Keaton even thinking about it? Gen X never debates on the merits of the argument because they are too busy fighting the hypothetical. I am inclined to say that is because they know I'm right, but that would be unfair. They can't know that I'm right because they can't even get to the point where they are considering the idea that militaristic media contributes to social problems. The noteworthy thing is that their response is so remarkably similar to the response of addicts when they are confronted with facts that disrupt their addictions. It's kinda like the hysterical Portlandia sketch below.

Circular Arguments: Their arguments revolve around themselves and almost always start out where they began.

Unrecognized Contradictions: They argue that films are important pieces of art, but the very notion that films or sports they like may be making society worse leads them to spasms of "Calm down, it's just entertainment." Which is it? The same way that an addict can hold two contradictory reasons in their heads for why they take drugs (I am overworked and bored), Gen X has no problem arguing that The Hunger Games is an important social critique and a fluffy action film.

Denial: The whole point is to get social critics to stop criticizing the entertainment that Gen X enjoys. Sometimes, the braver welfare libertarian will debate the merits of media culture for a few sentences, but inevitably they revert back to the circular logic, contradictions, and tactics designed to shut the argument down. Several Gen Xers have admitted that they were not willing to come along with me on my critique, because they didn't want me to spoil the fun, which is hysterical because I find it more fun to critique the media than to passively experience it.
It's not just a river, it's De-Nile. Get it?
A friend introduced me to the idea that people are so resistant to these critiques because they are addicted to entertainment.  So, I read several versions of the mass entertainment addiction theory, which seems to have originated in Christian theology, but is now being adopted by social psychologists.

I haven't done enough reading yet, nor thought about it enough to conclude for certain that society is addicted to entertainment. However, with the availability of corporate commercialism at our fingertips 90% of the time on our computer/phones, and hundreds of cable channels beamed into our home at any given moment, it seems like the seeds of an opium-war-style societal addiction have been laid. If that is truly the case, it is more important than ever to be conscious about the entertainment that we provide for our children. And no, that is not censorship.