magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Sometimes I'm reading along, and I'll hit a word – usually a really common word – that I've never thought of in terms of etymology before (usually because it's a really common word, and thus kinda invisible in my day-to-day goings-about), and encountering it in a new context makes the etymology just... click into place for me, and it's like I've uncovered a new nugget of meaning and a secret pedigree, and it makes me really happy.

Frex: I'm reading the astronomy textbook I got from Launchpad. I come across this passage:

Evidence that asteroids and comets really are leftover planetesimals comes from analysis of meteorites, spacecraft visits to comets and asteroids, and computer simulations of solar system formation. The nebular theory actually predicts he existence of both the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt—a prediction first made in the 1950s. Thus, the discoveries, beginning in the 1990s, of numerous objects orbiting in the Kuiper Belt represent a triumph for the nebular theory.


(Emphasis is the book's.)

My mind caught on the use of that first predicts. Looking at it stylistically, I first thought it should have been predicted, so I started testing my assumptions to see if I still thought they were correct. I thought about the word predates, and how that could be used in present tense and I'd have no issue with it. So, I took a closer look at predict – something I'd never been prompted to break down before.

pre, before. dict, from the same roots as dictate, dictum. I didn't have a Latin dictionary (dictionary!) at hand, so I didn't look up the exact meaning – but I had enough grounding at that point that my concerns were washed away. Dict; an authoritative or forceful assertion. A pre-dictum. The science dictates that it shall be so, and (in this case) it is revealed that it is so. How fabulous. A much more forceful etymology. Gleaming little declarative bones in a soft skin of supposition.

Moments like this make me love linguistics.

BART song

Jan. 7th, 2013 08:33 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
1. I've made a routine out of my commutes in the morning and evening. I have the good fortune to be located along the BART line at stations where I can generally get a seat going both ways; even during the morning rush, when by Oakland the trains are packed full, standing-room-only, I'm generally tucked into a seat by a window where the morning light (when there is morning light, rather than drifting fog or steady rain) can pour in on me. These days, when I've managed my energy well enough that I'm not completely exhausted, too tired to think, I read. It's a 45-minute ride each way, which clears out a precious hour and a half for me to sit down and devour books. Which is an unparalleled luxury, given how little I was able to read before I came out here.

Little to do with reading. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I like to personify my brain, partially as an Elizabeth Gilbert-esque control on getting too much ego tied up in things but mostly because it makes it easier to blame things on an entity external to myself. Like this, for example: if there is a choice between buckling down and working on one of the many, many concepts/story scraps I have lying around or coming up with a shiny new concept – usually novel-length, but not always – then it will take the "shiny new concept" option 11 times out of 10.

Anyway, it tossed me what may or may not be an urban fantasy Noir about a freelance detective gal who gets commissioned for some enigmatic person named North, and ends up having to navigate her own undeath. As well as her life, one universe over. And the one may not be more complicated than the other.

Here's the beginning my brain handed me:

I knew I was digging myself into it when I signed the contract. It's not like I couldn't see it coming; on the highway of life, this was the lane with the orange cones and the lit-up roadside sign saying THE BRIDGE IS OUT and the police lights and the oily smoke coming up. But, you know, if I'd had another option, I wouldn't have taken this one.

That's the way it always is.


I've also worked more on Rust City. You know, when I started it, I was pretty sure it would be a novella – but then it just kept growing. I only have about 8k words in it now, but given the way I structure things and how the scope is expanding (the love-fascination-need-triangle is now more of a connect-the-dots), I'd be surprised if the finished draft clocked in under 70 or 80k. Y'know, if it ever fights its way through the shiny new upstarts.

It's a wonder I've ever finished anything.

He drew up beside her. She was framed in the gristle of the building, the rebar and wire and crumbled cement like a nest around her. Across the city blocks, the Moonlit moon was glowing. Its light was softened by the distance, and softened Sela's face.

"You smell like him," Sela said.

Ferro looked at her, then ducked his head. Hoped that what he was about to say would be permissible. "How do you know what he smells like?"

Sela glanced at him askance. "You have to remember which one of us is the dog," she said.


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop which failed to teach me the fine art of controlling my wordcounts, but which did teach me many and varied other valuable things.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
It's always an interesting feeling when you've been completely paralyzed by the sight of the blank (or unfinished, or finished but requiring revision) Word document for days, weeks, or months, only to discover when a deadline looms that yes, if it comes down to it, you still can pound out 2500 words in a single Sunday. When 100 words have been giving every indication of being a Sisyphean task, you have to wonder where the switch got flipped.

I have a feeling it's in the "deadline" part.

When I was taking classes at the University of Iowa, one of my major complaints was that their fiction writing courses were non-graduated. There was no beginning, intermediate, advanced path to take – everyone, including the people just looking for three easy credits and with no passion for writing, got tossed into the same courses, and with the added complication that a lot of them thought "science fiction and fantasy" meant "you can't say anything about it because it's all just made up and doesn't have to make sense" meant that, with the exception of classes run by a couple excellent people, I didn't often get a lot out of the critiquing parts of the workshops. But they were still invaluable to me.

Why?

Because sometimes, all you need is the magical combination of time to write, the expectation that you'll write, and a commitment to persons outside of yourself that you'll produce something, even if it isn't a lofty piece of literature which will stand the test of ages.

Which is why Clarion West is such an amazing place, to be honest. Well, one of the reasons. I can't ignore the chance to learn from six amazing teachers with six different strengths and styles, or the amazing families you can form there, but what makes it a truly mind-altering experience is the fact that for six weeks, your entire life can be writing. You can saturate yourself with your fiction. Set aside work, cares, feeding the cats (or the kids), making yourself dinner, all the niggling cares of the so-called real world. All that's expected of you is fiction. The world is built around your fiction. And for your fiction, you are welcomed, supported, honored.

There's a reason so many of us join the Write-a-thon every year, hoping to grab back some vestige of what the workshop experience is like.

Anyway, now that I've tricked my brain into admitting that it hasn't burnt out forever and ever and that it can still string words together into a somewhat coherent narrative and that all the rest is just whining, I'm going to see where I get by the end of this week. This Friday, I have the first meeting of my new job; immediately thereafter, I'm going to be helping to launch a company. It'll be an exciting and busy time, and pretty much the opposite of the workshop in terms of the precedence my immediate world accords my writing.

But, you know, it's okay. As ever, we'll see how it goes.

...

There aren't any really good Write-a-thon-quotable passages from the 2500 words of yesterday, so I'll give you a snatch of one of the next projects I'm going to be working on: the post-apocalyptic pseudo-moleman-infested extremely unromantic love story Rust City.

"Do people do that?"

"Look to sex for comfort?" Ferro asked. "It's a thing people do, yeah."


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that makes it all but impossible for authors not to produce. And producing is half the battle.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm staying home sick today. It's been one thing after another: waking up at 4 and being unable to get back to sleep, getting severe cramps, being unable to breathe due to congestion, getting a bloody nose... on like this. And because I can't go into the office, I'm missing a meeting, and because I'm missing a meeting, I spent a good two hours – before the workday would even start, mind you, as I sent in my sick note at around 6 – stressing about it.

And I think, you know, this is really sort of a screwed up system this society's built, isn't it, that I have all this guilt and stress over missing a day of work due to circumstances beyond my control? I'm eating healthy. I'm getting about an hour of exercise, if not more, just about every day. I'm sleeping enough. It's not as though I'm getting sick over some sort of negligence on my part, and the two previous days this week where I was too sick to go in, I worked from home and met all my goals and deadlines. Illness is a natural part of being alive, and should not be something to feel guilt over.

And yet.

And really, a lot of these fundamental assumptions of How Things Go are kind of screwed-up. I've been reading through The 4-Hour Workweek recently, and kinda going "Hm, I wish, I wish" at it, but the central message is something of a paradigm shift: the entire professional life is built around putting off the things that are valuable to you until you've lost the best (most healthy, most free, most able, for the most part) years of your life. And as an added twist, the thing that's to take up most of our waking hours, the thing by which society expects us to define ourselves ("What do you do?" "I'm a web application developer." I am is a powerful term) is the mechanism by which we make money. Making money doing something we find meaningful is considered an advanced skill – and something you're lucky to have.

...I've been reading a lot about earthships, too (in that same I wish, I wish) vein), and one of the things Earthship Man Michael Renolds says is that economies should exist to take care of people; people shouldn't live to take care of economies. (One of the tenets of the earthship philosophy is that people shouldn't be reliant on an economy for the basics of their survival.) It's a compelling idea.

I find that, more and more, I want to be engaged in something meaningful. I'm lucky to have my job, and I'm learning from it – not just about the technical skills, but also about things like project management, documentation and reference structure, interacting with people and communicating clearly, setting measurable goals and motivating myself through them – but there's only a very small service component (I'm helping to support the University, and education is one of my big starry-eyed idealistic values), and there's no spiritual component to it, at all. I feel like if I didn't have the dry, pragmatic concerns – cost of living, cost of paying debt, especially my mountain of student loan debt – I wouldn't be at this job at all.

I don't know what I would be doing. I have dreams, certainly – teaching (teaching something), writing, building Earthships, building communities – but they're all dreams at this stage. For some, I don't know what my criteria for success are. For others, I don't know the criteria to begin.

I want to do something more with my life than what I'm doing. I want to know how to start.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm asexual, though panphysical, and largely aromantic. I mistrust external significations made on relationships. I'm polyamorous, though I love slowly; I reserve judgment, I reserve trust, I'm not great at communicating my emotions to anyone, and I tend to dissect them interminably before going out and saying I have them. I dislike courting, I dislike the romantic ideals of love as a conqueror of all things or a supreme ideal to which all other ideals should or must be subjugated. I'm not interested in laying an exclusive claim on anyone, or letting anyone lay an exclusive claim on me. I don't believe that, having realized you love one person, the natural result should be that you cease to love all others. I don't think formalizing a relationship in the eyes of other people changes the truth of the relationship between the people in it. I don't think a relationship needs to be defined, formalized, or recognized, in order to be valid or profound.

I'm also, as of the 26th of December, engaged.

I'll understand if you have some questions.

In the light of all that, what's /left/ for marriage to signify? )

[ETA] Also there's the matter where I love L very much, but, uh, that was supposed to go without saying?

[ETA 2: Son Of ETA] Cepheid variables, I am bad at this.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
This was hard to write, and even harder to post. Harder still to post publicly. Still, here it is – after having sat in my drafts folder for about four months, but thrown to the world at last.

=

In an effort to help people understand privilege, its forms and complexities, I'm going to use myself as a case study. I'm going to examine a lot of the ways privilege affects my life, positively and negatively. So, while I will be pointing out ways in which I'm disadvantaged, I'm also going to try to own up to a lot of my own privilege, because it's really not a simple thing. You can be privileged in one way and disprivileged in another.

This isn't meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive. It's meant to provide a few glimpses into things people might not otherwise think about, especially with regards to the difference between who and what you are and what privilege you are accorded. It's beginning to unpack the invisible knapsack, but it's not finishing it.

It's a starting point, which will hopefully get people thinking.

So let's start.


Privilege I have



Read more... )


Privilege I sometimes have



Read more... )


Privilege I don't have



Read more... )


Special notes



Privilege is not universally desirable. One of the things that seems to tag along with male privilege is the privilege to be intimidating. While this is useful in warding off some types of harassment, it can be very unsettling when invoked accidentally. When I used to walk home alone while my city was having its big, well-reported problem with people being sexually assaulted walking around after dark, I'd occasionally find myself walking down the same stretch of road, presenting as male, to all appearances following a solitary female pedestrian. As someone who doesn't want to come across as threatening to innocents, this was not a comfortable space to be in.

Privilege is not universally bad. In a lot of cases, the effects of privilege aren't things people should feel guilty for experiencing. The problem arises when they're privileges and not rights - the privilege to escape harassment, for example, is a privilege because it's a right which is denied to people like women, transgendered persons, poor persons. etc. The privilege to be taken seriously by doctors is a right which is often denied to fat people and people of color.

Passing is a way of accessing privilege. If I pass for male, I access aspects of male privilege. If someone passes for white, they access aspects of white privilege. This can happen involuntarily as well as voluntarily, and someone can be passed as well as passing. One example of this is a person of color who's granted "honorary whiteness" by their friends - their friends will stop noticing that they're a person of color, even to the point where they'll have a moment of "Huh, they are" when it's brought up. Another example is a person with a mixed ethnic background who appears white enough that people assume they are white.

Privilege is multifaceted. Even at its most simplistic, we can split it into two parts which have to be evaluated separately: the personal, what one experiences, and the social, what one is accorded. This is how someone with severe gender dysphoria who nonetheless passes for their assigned gender can both experience and lose cisgender privilege; feeling comfortable with one's own body and expected social roles is a cisgender privilege which they have lost, while the ability to exist and function in society without being harassed on the basis of their gender is one they maintain.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Sometimes I get things that don't belong to me.

Or maybe I should rephrase that: sometimes things come to me that have no belonging with me. It happens fairly frequently with the art I do. Sometimes with other physical objects. Sometimes with works by other people – poems or books or whathaveyou. But something will come to me, and it won't let me alone, but it won't be mine. In these cases, I'm slowly learning that my job is to wait for the lurch of SEND THIS OFF NOW or make an educated guess at where that needs to be.

Once, frex, I was idly sketching, and a dragon came out. Not the one I'd been intending to draw, but when I erased him and started over, he came out again. And again. And then I was going to send him off to a friend who worked with that sort of dragon, but I got a sense of no, not now from it, and when I made to ignore those, a series of unlikely coincidences (including forgetting the flash drive I carried with me daily) conspired to prevent me from sending it off. So he sat on my hard drive and I'd poke him occasionally and give up again until one day, out of nowhere, I got this Send this off NOW spike which wouldn't let me leave the room. So I sent him off, where he was received, so I'm told, at exactly the right, critical time.

Or there was the time after I made skullbaby that I decided to make another mask, and started in on an Anubis one. Which then fizzled out and wouldn't let me finish it, and then I started hanging out with someone who worked with Anubis as an aspect. That mask now has a home, and is semi-finished, at least, and has already been used in a production.

It's things like this.

And my sense for these things isn't perfect; that's the cost of guessing, I suppose. But there have been enough hits (and only one real catastrophe) that I keep going with it, because if I don't, I end up feeling like a cad for weeks afterward.

Speaking of which, is there anyone who feels, metaphysically, like they're missing an epic Bengali lyrical love poem from me?
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I blogged a little bit, earlier, about getting myself even-keeled through meditation, and I was actually kinda surprised at the response I got back from it. Given my own newfound fascination with the topic, I suppose I shouldn't have been, but I think I'm getting used to my interests either diverging sharply from those of my peer group or just being niche interests in the first place. So assuming there's interest in more of this, and proceeding on the assumptions that

1) Solutions are pretty meaningless without problems, and

2) Writing things down helps me order and deal with things,

I might as well write this up.

First,

A brief overview

Here's a snapshot of my life at the moment: I'm working 40 hours a week in my full-time job, an additional four hours (plus a few hours baking and possibly an hour in transit, setup, teardown, transit) at the Farmer's Market (Saturday mornings), and trying to rekindle an active life in the UU Church on Sundays. Combined, this is my major time commitment over the week, as well as meaning that there isn't a single day during the week when I can sleep in, unless I consider 9:00 on Sundays to be sleeping in. I'm working the Clarion West Write-a-thon, which, in my case, has me writing one complete short story or novel chapter, or revising one short story, every week. I'm in a two-bedroom house which is now housing three people, two cats, a dog, and some gerbils. I'm trying to untangle several years' worth of tangled-up finances, which keep getting compounded by red tape (Iowa Student Loan, I'm looking at you) and odd errors (such as the person at Paul's who accidentally charged me the last four digits of my debit card rather than the cost of goods, and then had to have it refunded through my bank). I'm preparing for a move, and a possible side gig as a freelancer.

Those are all big, overarching things, which aren't the same as specific issues, which is significant. But they're situational stressors, which are also significant. More on that later.

Wallowing and solving

I haven't talked much about the crap what goes on in my life, because I'm making a concerted effort to be productive about it, and I recognized a trap that I used to get caught in. Basically, there's a trick I noticed some time ago: if someone has a problem, and they talk a lot about that problem, but they reject all approaches toward solving that problem, odds are they're not invested in having that problem solved. Which is understandable. Attempting to solve a problem takes effort, and there's no guarantee that it'll work, and effort and failure are both daunting things. Someone may earnestly want a problem to be solved, but be unwilling to take any action to solve it. They'll find problems with all the proposed solutions, dismiss ideas with "I can't" or some variation without seeming to consider how they could, or put in token effort and then, when that fails, dismiss the entire thing as a wash. So I catch myself having mental conversations like this:

Me (whiny): I wish I had more money. I have all this debt to pay off.

Me (sensible): Well, let's look at ways of handling this. You could prioritize your spending and increase your payments.

Me (whiny): I've done that, but it'll still take a long time to pay.

Me (sensible): Then let's look at how you could make more money. Could you get a raise, or find extra work?

Me (whiny): I don't have time for another job, and I haven't been here for long enough to negotiate a raise, especially since I think we're under a pay freeze.

Me (sensible): Have you looked into the specifics of the pay freeze or salary increases? And if you don't have time for another job, how about freelancing? Or looking to prioritize your time a bit more?

Me (whiny): I can't prioritize my time any more! There are only so many hours in the day!

Me (sensible): And how many of those hours do you spend doing not much? How many hours do you spend doing things like surfing the internet or playing video games? Are you accepting those as a higher priority than making more money and solving this problem?

Me (whiny): I have to do those things to recharge my batteries. I don't have the emotional energy to start freelancing.

Me (sensible): Have you looked into ways of increasing your mood and building up emotional energy in better ways? There's great research on the mood-lifting effects of regular exercise, and often you don't feel that great when you're surfing the web or playing video games; you might be using those as a crutch rather than a genuine way to feel better and solve your problems.

Me (whiny, in summary): Look, solving this problem is hard and I don't want to try to! I just want to complain!

...and that gets me nowhere. So when I catch myself with this thought process:

1) I have this problem! I hate having this problem! => 2) I'm going to write a blog post about my problem!

I try to short-circuit it and turn it into this:

1) I have this problem! I hate having this problem! => 2) I'm going to sit down and find a way to solve this problem.

And when I do that, the funny thing is that I'll occasionally find a way to solve the problem, and then I'll solve it, and once I solve it, I don't really need to blog about it any more. As a result, I suppose the entire process has been pretty opaque to people who aren't me.

But there are things I haven't solved yet...

Which I've been shutting up about because I'm still in the "Don't complain, SOLVE" stage. It's interesting – writing things down, breaking things apart and examining the issues, is actually a really big part of how I problem-solve. It's just that when I do it publicly, I always have to be wary of taking sympathy and validation instead of solutions. Because the problem is, a lot of the time when someone complains and people come by and say "Oh, that's horrible! That is such a big problem!", they go away with this empty, palliative feeling. There, see? I have sympathy. People know what a terrible thing I'm enduring, and they agree that it's a serious thing, and they think I'm totally cool for enduring it. And they walk away with a temporary high and the same exact problem.

But I figure there's a middle ground to be had. So! If you folk will promise to keep me on track, I'll try to open up this process for you. And maybe we can all learn a few things from each other.

Deal?

Case study coming very soon.

*Subject line referencing The Willpower Engine, a blog dissecting specific mechanisms of motivation, willpower, behavior, emotional repair, habit-forming, etc. I've found it a fantastic resource.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know what? I have a headcold right now which is making it difficult to think about anything coherently, let alone put it into words, but it seems to me that the works people turn to in order to laugh, or to cry, or to get inspired by, or to masturbate to, or to fill an otherwise empty time are works which get remembered. If they're not remembered in specific detail, they're still remembered in favorable generalities, or why else would people make a habit of turning to them? The person who reads through en entire shelf of pulp novels, each one pretty much the same to an outside perspective, is getting something from those novels. The novels are filling a need.

And because they fill a need, or just because they comprise a present and recurrent part of the consumer's life, they converse with the consumer's worldview. People get inspired by a football play or moved by an anecdote in Reader's Digest, and those are real effects on real people. If you're good at matching a need to an audience, you can use those vehicles to make real changes.

You can use movies to liberalize attitues toward homosexuality. You can use photo galleries (link NSFW) to alter standards for physical attractiveness. You can use video games to educate children as to how to avoid landmines. You can use moments in softball games to teach lesson abut grace. This is true despite the fact that you'll have no difficulty finding people who will dismiss, out of hand, how seriously film or art or video games or sports should or can be taken.

Intended audiences derive meaning from what's produced to entertain them. By accident or design.

Which is why I balk when people dismiss the impact things like fiction – even fanfiction – can have, or when people say that no one should care what messages are put in movies, because they're just movies, after all. The implication is that things like racism or sexism or ableism or whathaveyou doesn't matter if it's shown in these things, because they matter so terribly little. Because of course the constant omission of the voices of people of color in literature doesn't contribute to the creation of a single story, and the fact that Edward is a vampire and thus clearly fictional means that a generation of young women readers won't grow up to romanticize stalking and other sorts of potentially dangerous behaviour.

Statements like "It's just fandom." "It's just TV." "It's just for fun." assume that people segment their experiences in such a way that those experiences don't ever cross over, ever inform each other. They assume that we gain and learn nothing from those things. And they assume that those things occur in a vacuum, sealed off from the rest of our experiences of the world, whether we're the consumers or the creators.

Human endeavor comes out of human experience and feeds back into human experience, whether or not it's supposed (or assumed) to. In many ways it's completely involuntary, as familiar scents trigger memories or, as Chimamanda Adichie recounted, our opinions of others fill themselves in on a paucity of facts. It's why watching our media, our art and our entertainment, can be such a valuable diagnostic tool as to the lives and opinions of the people – and why working to improve that can feed back and improve society as a whole.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
There's something I see a lot in discussion of race, of gender, of any sort of marginalized group, really – someone who isn't part of that group will come up to someone who is and say "Wow, I didn't know. Could you tell me more?" And the person they're asking will say "No."

And then it usually explodes.

I want to write out exactly what I see as going on in that situation, to the extent that I know it, to tell people why they're getting that "No." – and this is a lesson I had to learn after looking at posts by people who refused, and thinking Well, that's unreasonable, isn't it?, and really sitting down to try to understand why that refusal was happening. Why someone who was a victim of ignorance would refuse to educate others.

Yes, it's counter-intuitive. But it's not unreasonable. Here's, to the best of my current understanding, why:

Educating others is an arduous and often thankless job, especially when you're educating someone who may be skeptical of your point of view, especially when it's topic which affects you deeply, personally, and emotionally. If you ask someone to put in the time and energy to educate you, whether or not (but especially if) you've given any indication that you might not agree with what they're trying to explain, whether or not (but especially if) it's a topic which is significant and personal to them they are not obligated to educate you.

On an issue like race, or sexuality, or gender, reams and reams of information have already been written. A little digging, at a decent library or on the internet, will give you a wealth of information on the topic – usually written by those who do sincerely want to educate others. By preferring not to sit down and discuss issues, people are not denying others access to that information. They're saying that they personally can't, won't, or don't want to teach it.

No, oppressed and marginalized people are not morally obligated to educate their oppressors or the mainstream. In fact, the constant need to defend oneself or one's lifestyles is a symptom of oppression and marginalization.

I personally don't find it offensive when people ask me to educate them. I may not always have the time, energy, or inclination to do so, and I may scoff at the notion that I am capable of speaking or qualified to speak as though I represented my entire demographic, but I generally assume (unless they indicate hostility or skepticism) that they're asking in good faith. This doesn't mean that I will always step up to educate them – as said before, it takes a lot of time and energy, especially emotional energy. And while I'd try to turn away people I didn't want to educate myself kindly, hopefully with a few edifying links or directions on where to turn, were I in an emotional state, I can't guarantee how that would come out. It might come out in a very hostile way – and if it ever does, I apologize.

The hostility. Not the refusal to educate. Because while I think that basic civility is a right of people in dialogue, having someone personally educate you is not. It is a privilege – yes, I said the P-word – and should never be demanded of anyone.

But, I hear someone say, people need to be educated, and if the marginalized and oppressed don't do it, who will? Excellent question.

The problem here is that people think the marginalized and oppressed can be tokenized down into the particular marginalized or oppressed person they happen to be talking to. People do educate on this. People write, people manage campaigns. People take social and civic action. Yes, people both from and outside of the marginalized and oppressed groups take it upon themselves to educate others and to work for equality and justice.

This doesn't mean that they, or other members of their community, have to work on the schedule of anyone who asks, or for anyone who asks, or because anyone asked. In the same way that you can't just grab an unemployed person off the streets and say "You, write a letter to your congressman about the economy – well, come on, hurry up; it's your responsibility!", in the same way you can't tell a victim of police brutality or even racial profiling "You, here's a pen and paper, write a letter to the editor of the local paper because the public has to know!", you should be aware that people have their own lives to live and their own concerns and their own apprehensions and hangups about stepping into that role and are not obligated to perform any civic duty to fulfill your sense of moral propriety.

And even asking that question reveals another one: why should it rest on the backs of the marginalized and oppressed? Pragmatically, yes, it usually does, but if you're asking the question, that indicates that you both come from a position of privilege and recognize that there's a problem that needs solving. Kudos to you, and that's a genuine kudos; you're ahead of a lot of people. The next step is to educate yourself.

You can do it. It's not even that difficult. It's the information age.

Educating yourself is likely to give you a much more solid grounding in the state of things, anyway, unless the person you're talking to is heavily involved in social action or has a degree in the subject you're asking about. People are great for personal touches and idiosyncratic experiences, but if you're coming in as someone who knows nothing and wants to learn, you might want more than personal touches and idiosyncratic experiences anyway.

I'd like to say here that I personally don't think there's anything inherently offensive about asking someone else for their opinions or for the basics, so long as you respect them and their right, if they choose so, not to tell you. I have to amend a caveat, though: in saying this I am very much not interested in being used as anyone's marginalized friend in an argument such as "oh, well, [personal profile] magistrate says se doesn't see anything offensive about it." Do not tokenize me. My opinions are what I think, not what every person in my situation thinks or should be expected to think. If you ask someone and they're offended by it, apologize and don't ask any more. If they rip you apart for asking and apologizing, maybe that's not someone you want to talk to about this subject. It happens.

Disclosure. I am a member of marginalized groups. I'm biracial, asexual, non-cisgendered. I am also a member of privileged groups. I'm college-educated, American, able-bodied. Most people are combinations of privileged and non-privileged – this discussion, as with most discussions of privilege, applies to people acting on both sides, and should be considered in this light.

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magistrate

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